Cure Kids' State of Child Health report finds dismal outcomes in areas of deprivation

Cure Kids has released its first State of Child Health report - and it makes for dismal reading.

The report sets out three key markers of child health in New Zealand - dental disease, respiratory conditions, and skin infections.

The report reveals children in New Zealand have relatively high rates of hospitalisation in these three areas compared with similar countries, and these rates are on the increase.

Rates of hospitalisation for these diseases are highest among Māori and Pasifika children and children under five, and are strongly associated with increasing deprivation.

"For the first time, we have a national snapshot of the most pertinent health burdens Kiwi children face today," says Cure Kids CEO Frances Benge.

"The launch of this report is a starting point for comparisons over time and helps to highlight gaps in available data so we can build on this information in the coming years."

Key findings

Dental disease

  • 40 percent of five-year-olds have evidence of tooth decay, with higher rates for Māori and Pasifika children. Hospitalisation for tooth decay is particularly high for children living in areas of high deprivation
  • Tooth decay is the main reason why children older than one require pre-arranged hospital treatment
  • Less than 60 percent of children brush their teeth at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

Respiratory conditions

  • Respiratory conditions are the leading cause of acute admissions to hospital for children
  • 'Asthma and wheeze' was the most frequent diagnosis, with 6685 hospitalisations in 2019
  • Māori and Pasifika children, and children living in areas of high deprivation, have the highest hospitalisation rates for respiratory conditions

Skin infections

  • For skin infections, 'cellulitis' and 'cutaneous abscesses, furuncles, and carbuncles' are the most likely causes of hospitalisation for children
  • Rates of hospitalisation for serious skin infections are highest in Pasifika, Māori, children younger than five years, and children living in areas with high socioeconomic deprivation


Cure Kids says the report shows that given the inequalities linked to ethnicity and income, there's an urgent need to prioritise equity in health outcomes for all New Zealand children.

It calls for measures proven to prevent disease to be "urgently implemented", and for more research in areas where evidence gaps remain.

Rates of hospitalisation for common but severe dental, respiratory, and skin conditions can be reduced through treatment and culturally appropriate education for parents, children, and healthcare providers.

It says evidence supports reducing risk factors tied to housing conditions and unhealthy foods and drinks. It also calls for increased investment in nurse-led school-based clinics and other child-centred services to address skin health.

"We hope this report encourages and stimulates significant, coordinated investments in child health research, between Cure Kids, government and other research funders, including iwi, community funders, charities, and private-sector companies," says Benge.