ONE News can reveal that over half a million dollars is being invested in a new study to reduce the health risks faced by children in poverty.
With disadvantaged Kiwi kids five times more likely to die before their first birthday from deprivation-related illness, experts say new research is vital.
The project, backed by charity Cure Kids with initial funding from Perpetual Guardian, will support New Zealand’s leading child health researchers and doctors to initiate new studies specifically targeting major child illnesses and their causes.
Researchers have until mid-September to apply for funding. Cure Kids says already there’s been an encouraging number of applications.
Children’s Commissioner and paediatrician Dr Russell Wills says he welcomes the new initiative.
"This research will give us a much clearer steer where we as health professionals can make a difference for these children."
Studies show 305,000 New Zealand children are now classified as living in poverty with 40,000 hospitalised each year from largely preventable conditions.
Respiratory illnesses are 'preventable'
Respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchiectasis along with skin infections such as cellulitis, ear infections and pneumonia are among the most common causes.
Auckland teenager Jarvis Leaoseve is living with the after-effects of bronchiectasis every day. He contracted the respiratory condition as a baby and has spent many weeks in hospital as a result.
Although doing well now he still suffers from ongoing lung infections requiring regular antibiotics and physiotherapy.
"Its kind of annoying because I get sick a lot and I have to go into hospital for a very long time and be away from my family and miss a lot of school," he says.
Source: 1 NEWS
Bronchiectasis is caused by scarring to the lungs from an early infection such as pneumonia. It damages the airways, restricting the ability of the lungs to clear out excessive mucus.
It is an illness commonly associated with children from lower socio-economic backgrounds with a higher incidence in New Zealand than other countries. There are one-to-two fatalities from the disease each year in New Zealand.
Starship Respiratory physician Dr Cass Byrnes says she sees hundreds of cases each year and finds it frustrating to see children so badly affected by the preventable disease.
"We’re diagnosing a child with bronchiectasis every 10 days here at Starship Hospital and there are about 136 admissions per year."
Quality of housing needs to be fundamentally addressed
The government has poured tens of millions into helping eradicate rheumatic fever in recent years, another disease of poverty and over-crowding which can lead to heart valve damage and death in later life.
It has also recently announced new standards for rental housing, requiring landlords from next year to insulate the floors and ceilings of rental properties.
Dr Wills says this is a good start but more is needed.
"We need to address the supply and quality of housing on a much deeper level and we need to address child poverty at a much more fundamental level," he says.
Cure Kids is hoping strong public support from Red Nose Day this Friday will help boost funding for this research initiative.
Cure Kids will announce the successful research projects next month.