This country’s high rates of such preventable diseases as rheumatic fever, bronchiolitis and skin infections were highlighted in a Social Justice Week seminar in Sacred Heart Cathedral parish on 10 September.
Paediatrician Dr Brendon Bowkett’s Powerpoint presentation showed how such diseases are a significant health burden for New Zealand children coupled with the fact that, unlike other OECD countries such as Australia, New Zealand does not vaccinate against rotovirus, chicken pox and meningococcal C.
These deficiencies in the health system are compounded by the struggle that some families in lower socio-economic areas have to get the medical attention their children need. And, Dr Bowkett said, hospitals can be dangerous places for children because of the lack of adequate isolation facilities in children’s wards to prevent cross-infection.
Dr Bowkett’s presentation showed children’s needs were clearly not a priority in budgetting for health services.
Plunket nurse Anne Holden agreed that poverty can prevent families accessing doctors when a child is sick because of the costs of transport as well as the immediate cost of a visit to the doctor. She described how poverty affects children’s long-term wellbeing and social, psychological and physical development. She said social isolation, poor extended family connections and financial deprivation were all factors leading to poor outcomes for children.
The coordinator of the region’s food bank in the Karori, Wilton, Cathedral area, Ray Coats, told of one solo father of four teenaged sons whose need for food parcels helped contribute to the high demand. How to improve the level of deprivation for those who relied on the food bank led to lively discussion and Ray made a plea for more food or monetary donations, in particular, canned vegetables, spreads and fresh produce.
The issue of homelessness was also covered with Sr Marcellin Wilson outlining the process of setting up the Homeless Women’s Temporary Accommodation in the city for homeless women on their own who needed somewhere to stay and support to become more resilient and independent while they sought long-term sustainable accommodation.
Challenge 2000’s Heath Hutton spoke of the youth organisation’s vision and said the voluntary organisation needed people who can train youth workers and provide role models for their clients, who can help professionally with publicity, marketing and administration. He said ready-made meals, petrol vouchers and financial support would also be welcome.
The seminar gave an insight into the many areas of deprivation in our local area and participants were keen to know what they could do to overcome the inequality of income and opportunity in society. One young woman asked about the part a lack of skilled education can play in youth unemployment and parishioners realised they needed another seminar with an emphasis on other areas of inequality.