According to many measures, New Zealand boasts some of the highest living standards in the world. Yet, sadly, this does not always translate to high standards of health and wellbeing for our children, when compared to similarly wealthy countries. Too many of our children and young people are burdened with preventable health conditions.
Each year around 40,000 children under the age of 14 are hospitalised for conditions with a social gradient – conditions that increase in number and severity the lower down the socioeconomic ladder families are.
Professor Cameron Grant, Head of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland, and his team are tackling one aspect of poverty-related health conditions, recurrent respiratory illness. Each year, around 10 per cent of children in New Zealand under the age of two are hospitalised with an acute respiratory infection. Three quarters of these illnesses are lower respiratory (chest) infections.
For one quarter of these children, there will be another respiratory infection hospital admission within the next 12 months. For some children, there are multiple admissions and ongoing respiratory health problems.
According to Professor Grant, the risk of being hospitalised is four to five times greater for children living in the most deprived 20 per cent of households.
Cure Kids are funding Professor Grant to undertake a study where he and his team are giving vitamin D supplements to children under two years of age who present to hospital with an acute lower respiratory infection. The aim is to determine if vitamin D supplementation can prevent acute respiratory infections. It is hoped that this direct intervention will reduce future hospital admissions, and in doing so, provide compelling evidence for changing how children are treated across the country.