Labour health policy: Mental health for school children, mobile dental clinics

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Labour would make mental health support available to all primary and intermediate students, and increase dental health grants to $1000, if elected.

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Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Health spokesperson Chris Hipkins announced the party’s health policy in Auckland this morning, saying it had invested record amounts into DHBs, hospitals and mental health “after nine years of neglect under National”.

Labour would:

  • Provide mental health support for all primary and intermediate students
  • Continued roll out of nurses in secondary schools
  • $50m a year extra funding for planned care
  • $50m a year extra funding for Pharmac
  • Double the number of cochlear implants
  • Dental health grants of up to $1000 for those on low incomes and 20 additional mobile dental clinics

The party has also already signalled it would implement reforms recommended by the Heather Simpson health and disability report, including establishing a Māori health authority and national public health agency, reducing the number of DHBs from 20 to between eight and 12, and abolishing DHB elections.

Hipkins says Labour would expand the workforce of social workers, counsellors, teachers, youth workers and psychologists who could help support and build resilience in schools.

“We know that providing support early to young people works and can help prevent mental health issues manifesting later in life,” he says.

“The Mana Ake programme in the Canterbury region has made a huge difference to children and families adversely affected by the earthquakes and terror attack.”

Hipkins says the funding boost for planned care would help people waiting for surgery and consultations, including hundreds of women who suffer from endometriosis.

“This funding will see thousands more procedures go ahead and help to reduce the pressure on surgery waiting lists.”

Labour’s funding increase of $200m over four years for Pharmac – $50m a year – compares to a $55m per year increase promise from National.

The National Party has announced its own dental, health and mental health policies over the past couple of weeks.

National’s leader Judith Collins said she did not think Labour’s dental policy was a bad one, but the focus should be on children.

“We focused on young children, we focused on the fact that many of the people you’re talking about never had proper dental health when they were young.”

She said about a third of children who could access free dental care were not doing so.

“So we thought we’d put the effort into young people and build our understanding of dental health from there.”

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