Inside Child Poverty: A Special Report

Inside Child Poverty - A Special Report: On Demand.

Bryan Bruce has spent the last six months investigating why the current state of child health in New Zealand is so bad and what we can do about it.

“I’m a baby boomer,” says Bruce. “I went to primary school in the late 50’s when they gave us free milk, free health care and a free education. In those days, Kiwi’s were able to boast that New Zealand was a great place to bring up kids. So when I learned that we’d dropped to number 28 on the list of 30 OECD countries for child well being, with just Mexico and Turkey behind us, I decided to find out what’s gone wrong and what we have to do to fix it.”

Bruce begins his journey in East Porirua, just 15km from Parliament, it has the highest rate of rheumatic fever in the country - a disease of poverty. After interviewing teachers, parents and local doctors, Bruce discovers what the free market economy has done to the health of children living in lower income families. Skin infections and respiratory illnesses he found are rife.

“And it’s not because their parents don’t care. They do. They’re just poor. Typically they can’t afford heating so they huddle together in one room and in large families that’s how diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and rheumatic fever are spread,” he explains.

Bruce then travels to Sweden to find out why the Swedes are second for child health and New Zealand is third from the bottom.

“What I discovered is that they work smarter,” says Bruce. “They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children up to the age of 18”.

“Every school has a full-time nurse and a doctor visits twice a week so they catch and treat symptoms early and save on huge hospital bills.”

“They also feed every child a healthy lunch everyday free of charge.”

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