18 Nov 2013

Govt urged to take action on unplanned pregnancies

9:29 pm on 18 November 2013

Parliament's health select committee is urging the Government to take action to lower New Zealand's high rate of unplanned and teenage pregnancies.

It is one of a number of recommendations the committee has made in a report released on Monday about improving health outcomes for children.

The select committee says the findings of its wide-ranging inquiry into Improving Child Health Outcomes and Preventing Child Abuse have the broad agreement of all its members across political parties.

One of the its key recommendations is for the Government to improve sexual and reproductive health care and education for young people.

Committee chair National MP Paul Hutchison said New Zealand's high rate of unplanned pregnancies, estimated at between 40% and 60% of all pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases is a factor in the poor health of children.

The Labour Party's health spokesperson, Annette King, agrees it is a problem and says for too long people have avoided dealing with it.

The committee also wants 90% of pregnant women to have an antenatal assessment by 10 weeks' gestation.

Dr Hutchison said a review of the Counties-Manukau District Health Board showed that fewer than 16% of women had been booked in by 10 weeks, but in Sweden, 90% would have had the checks by eight weeks.

He believed the target would be part of ensuring that every child gets the best start possible.

MPs say a plan is needed to improve services that are fragmented and unevenly distributed.