New Zealand's most vulnerable kids

27 Jul 2014

Summary: Identifying the most vulnerable children even before they're born could improve the lives of Maori and Pacific children.

Insight looks at the latest findings of Auckland University's long-term Growing Up in New Zealand study, as it releases a report on child vulnerability.

New information from the study which tracks the lives of nearly 7,000 children, could be used to narrow the inequality gap between Maori and Pacific children and their Paheka counterparts, according to researchers.

There are 12 risks that can affect a child's health and wellbeing. These include factors such as whether a mother smokes or experiences depression, or whether her child lives in a cold, damp or overcrowded home

Using information collected from the children - during their first one thousand days - from conception until their second birthdays - researchers found that one in three were exposed to three or more such risks, while 16 per cent were exposed to 11 or 12.

Children born to Maori and Pacific Island mothers were exposed to the greatest number of risks in that period of their lives, compared with Paheka or Asian children.

The study's lead researcher, Dr Susan Morton, says these findings could be used to identify and help the most vulnerable children, even before they are born.

She suggests one way of tackling the problem could be to use routine information that's already collected on pregnant women, which could be used to create a checklist to identify those most in need.

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