27 July 2011

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomes the release today of the Government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children.

This paper has been developed with significant input from many of the leaders in the child health field, and describes the evidence base for the recommendations. The NZMA commends this process, and encourages doctors to take a leading role in the consultation process both at national level and also within their own communities. “How we care for our children and whether they have the opportunity to thrive and achieve is a key indicator of whether we live in a fair and just society,” says NZMA Deputy Chair Dr Mark Peterson.

“A child’s positive early life experiences, including whether they are brought up in a nurturing environment have lifelong critical effect. Conversely a child’s exposure to stress, emotional neglect, violence and even environmental uncertainty has a profound influence on the incidence of disease and mental illness later in life.”

The NZMA’s Health Equity position statement calls for urgent action from the Government and the health sector to address the impacts of the range of social determinants that affect health, particularly for our most vulnerable groups.

“We have urged the Government to focus on policies which will give every child the best start in life and we are pleased that the Government has had the courage to raise what will be challenging issues for the nation to think about”.

Dr Peterson says that the changes needed will require a ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach, and that health professionals also have a vital role to play.  “This is a huge opportunity to make a difference for the children and families that need us most.”