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Government Health Cuts Hurting Young People

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern

A decision by the National Government to cut $8 million from sexual health programmes will cost New Zealand dearly in the long run, Labour Youth spokesperson Jacinda Ardern.

"In May 2010 Health Minister Tony Ryall scrapped $8 million in funding aimed at health promotion programmes to encourage high risk groups to be tested for chlamydia, to prevent the further spread of the disease," Jacinda Ardern said.

"A series of Official Information Act requests made to all 20 DHBs indicate there is an increasingly high prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in New Zealand's youth, yet a plan to deal with the problem was an area the government chose to scrap in the budget.

"New Zealand already has an appalling record when it comes to the prevention of STIs. Not only are our STI rates some of the highest in the OECD, but, according to the 2008 Annual Surveillance Report on Sexually Transmitted Infections in New Zealand, our regional chlamydia rates in New Zealand are reportedly two to five times higher than those in Australia.

"Cutting the funding in this area was stupid. How much is the Government now spending on treating people with STIs rather than investing in a prevention programme.

"A high quality prevention programme would inevitably save money in the long run. This short-sighted thinking of cut spending now, only to inevitably spend more on treatment, is just truly ridiculous.

"Information collected shows continuing increases in STI rates across the country, and people aged 15-24 are consistently being identified as those with the biggest risk of contracting STIs.

"In the Bay of Plenty for example, it was found that almost 22% of all girls aged 15-24 were treated for Chlamydia. "Other DHBs have indicated that the levels of STIs in their regions are rising at a considerable pace.

"Those rates are unacceptable and it's time for the Minister of Health to step up and to try and work towards a solution that will lower STI rates nationally.

"The lack of direction in this area was best demonstrated by the varying responses given by DHBs. While some showed that they have devised specific plans to tackle the problem of high STI rates in their region, others could only provide limited, if any, information about services that they deliver to youth, some of whom put this down to a lack of resources," Jacinda Ardern said.

"Services such as Youth One Stop Shops and Nurses in schools are invaluable in providing young people the support that they need in order to look after their physical and mental wellbeing, which is why it's concerning that there is such a disparity of youth-targeted health services between regions.

"For example, in the Auckland District Health Board catchment area, there are only ten schools who are allocated funding to hire registered nurses. The DHB is only allocated funding from the MoH for schools with a rating of deciles 1-2 and, if they wish to roll out the scheme in schools with a decile rating of 3 or 4, must offset the funding themselves"

"Surely there are more schools, both in the Auckland region and nationally, that are in dire need of nurses in schools to counteract rising STI rates? We need to start ensuring that young people have access to youth focused services right across New Zealand. "From the information I've collated, it's obvious that the majority of DHBs are doing the very best they can to ensure that the youth in their region have access to sexual health facilities, but often struggle to deliver services due to a lack of funding and resources .

"Tony Ryall can't turn his back on young people in this way," Jacinda Ardern said.

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