Thursday the 17th of October is International Day for the Eradication of poverty and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is calling for action locally, nationally and internationally to eradicate poverty. 25 percent of New Zealand children currently live in poverty.
Christchurch nurse and chair of the NZNO Nurses for Children and Young People of Aotearoa section (NCYPA). Becky Conway explains why poverty is a health issue, “Nurses and other health care workers see every day the effects of poverty on children and young people. We see how poverty affects, not only their health, but their self-esteem and future potential and prospects.”
“The effects of poverty can be visible through skin conditions, scabies and asthma. Poverty is also internal and invisible – the mental strain caused by living in poverty.”
“Here’s one distressingly common example. A teenager with advanced school sores (impetigo) comes into the clinic. He should have come months ago but his family couldn’t afford it. He lives in cramped, cold accommodation. He is ashamed of how he looks, covered in sores and open wounds, and he has stopped going to school. He doesn’t make eye contact with the nurse. The consultation feels like an indignity to the young man and his family, and both the nurse and the family know that even the cost of the prescription may be too much.”
“We see cases like this, and worse, every day. Nurses want to make a difference and to improve the health and well-being of their patients and we would love to know that we are making that difference for the long term, not just until next time the same disease afflicts the same impoverished child or young person,” Becky Conway says.
“Nurses know what will eradicate poverty. What New Zealand needs is a holistic approach to stopping poverty. The main way for families to move out of poverty is to increase their income, but health, housing, education and social welfare must provide wrap around policy and services too.”
“Solutions to child poverty require a multi-pronged approach, good child-focused government policy which is not punitive, and the solutions must address communities.”