AMA calls for pre-election focus on social determinants of child health

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The AMA has called for a bipartisan pre-election commitment to the formation of a Child Health Taskforce.

President Dr Omar Khorshid said the taskforce could be asked to report to the government within six months on priority initiatives to improve the social determinants of child health, including poverty, housing, nutrition and climate change.

Dr Khorshid said the AMA is also joining with other groups in seeking a commitment from the major parties to fund and implement the recommendations of the recently released National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Dr Khorshid said the pandemic has highlighted how crowded and sub-standard housing had contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

“We say access to good housing is a fundamental human right and essential for children to be able to grow up in a health and nurturing environment,” said Dr Khorshid.

“Our statement also highlights the effect of hunger and poorly nourished children on health and 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 the statement noted the pandemic response had shown both the benefits of good policy and reinforced the damaging and lasting impacts on children of poverty, poor housing, and social isolation.

“A commitment to equity must underpin fiscal, social and health policy. This particularly applies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” added Dr Khorshid.