Election policies should focus on child health, AMA says

Australian Medical Association

The AMA has joined leading health and welfare groups calling for child-focused policies on poverty, poor housing, and social isolation to be brought to the federal election for the long-term benefit of the health and wellbeing of our children.

The formation of a Child-Health Taskforce is among policies the current government and opposition should commit to if successful at this year’s federal election, according to the groups.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the Child Health Taskforce would be asked to initially report to the new government within six-months on priority initiatives to improve the social determinants of child health, that is, non-medical factors which influence health outcomes.

These include poverty, housing, nutrition, including avoiding sugary drinks, food security and climate change.

Dr Khorshid said the AMA, along with ACOSS; the Academy of Child and Adolescent Health; the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians was seeking a commitment from the major parties to fund and implement the recommendations in the recently released National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy if elected.

The groups issued a joint statement noting the period during the Covid-19 pandemic when income support payments were raised, had been hugely beneficial to children and their families, reducing anxiety and suicides.

Dr Khorshid said the pandemic highlighted how crowded and sub-standard housing contributed to the spread of Covid-19. “Access to good housing is a fundamental human right and essential for children to be able to grow up in a healthy and nurturing environment,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Our statement also highlights the effect of hunger and poorly nourished children on health, development and school outcomes.

“The AMA, through our #SicklySweet campaign against excessive sugar in soft drinks, has called out the links between sugar and obesity and chronic disease. Poor dental health is also a debilitating outcome of high sugar diets in children.

“Importantly our joint statement makes very clear our children are going to face the full consequence of a heating climate. Australia needs to rapidly transform its energy systems and economy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. We need short, medium and long-term plans,” Dr Khorshid said.

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