Helping to keep more New Zealanders and their families healthy is a priority for the National-led Government. This year we will be investing a record $16.1 billion into health and continuing our drive to get better results for New Zealanders and their families from that investment. That’s why we’ve also introduced a number of important initiatives to help give New Zealand children the best possible start in life. Around 780,000 children are benefiting from our policy of free GP visits and prescriptions, as well as free after-hours services, for all children aged under 13. To date more than 1.2 million influenza vaccines have been distributed across the country, protecting over a quarter of our population.
We’ve also lifted immunisation rates for babies, with around 93 per cent of eight-month-olds now fully immunised. This means thousands more babies are being protecting from potentially life-threatening illnesses. There’s been a significant reduction in national…. rheumatic fever rates, dropping 45 per cent since 2012. This shows the $65 million investment the National-led Government has made to prevent rheumatic fever is making a difference to the young people, families, and communities most at risk. The latest issue threatening the health of young New Zealanders is obesity. One in three New Zealand school children are either obese or overweight, and more than a third are inactive.
That’s why the Government launched the Childhood Obesity Plan last October. We’re one of only a few developed countries with a comprehensive plan and a target to support it. Under our new target, we expect that over 4,000 children a year – 95 per cent of children identified as obese – will be supported to achieve a healthy weight by the end of next year. These children will be identified through our free B4 School Check programme, which benefits around 58,000 four-year-old children each year with a free health and development check. They will then be referred to an appropriate health professional with their family to get advice and help to support healthy eating and activity. We’re also taking a fresh look at what we provide for young people to ensure they participate and develop a lifelong love of sport.
While Kiwi kids have traditionally been active and sporty, around the world participation rates are falling and New Zealand is not immune. We are determined to ensure more young people get involved and stay involved in some form of sport as it helps them to led healthier lives. Deliver better health services remains a top priority for this National-led Government. That’s why we are investing more than ever before into health and are committed to achieving better results for New Zealanders and their families.