Nearly 30% of children 0-5 years in Northland at risk

updated By Dean Nathan

A new service has been launched in Northland to support children born into environments of alcohol and drugs.  The only known programme of its kind in New Zealand, Tupua Waiora will focus on pregnant mums and children up to three years of age.

Agnes Daniels of Te Ropu Kimiora says, "We know the problem is there.  We know that in Taitokerau, we see it our whānau see it.   And I think this gives us an opportunity to connect with whānau on a ground level and the reality of what our whānau are going through.  We're really excited about this programme and looking forward to supporting our whānau."

Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis addressed the gathering, "We know of the ups and down of this world and the hardships experienced by families these days.  So Tupua Waiora is of utmost importance in supporting these families."

Data from the Northland District Health Board shows that 29 percent of the total number of children 0-5 years in Northland are at risk, and the General Manager of Mental Health Addiction Services in Northland has huge concerns.  Ian McKenzie says, "They are at risk and vulnerable and the use of drugs and alcohol clearly has an impact on the children and on the family.  And so to try and get in early and to try and support mums and support whanau to raise healthy children is the most important thing we can do."

Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti also addressed the gathering, "What government is looking to do is work with you in the community to try and change that trajectory.  We know the risk factors.  We can identify the children.  We know the outcome if we do nothing."

Based on a model of care developed by Waitemata DHB the Ministry of Health has engaged Northland, Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti District Health Boards to provide a similar service with $1 million of annual funding to each district for four years.

Kaitaia Hospital manager Neta Smith was in anticipation of benefits from the programme, "We already know who some of them are and they're gonna be working alongside the mums and children until the children are actually 3 years old.  So that's huge.  In the past, the services really only worked with mother and children for only one year so that's gonna be a big difference for children and women in our community."