Whanganui leads way in pre-schoolers’ health checks


31 July 2019


B4 school checks are a vital health and developmental assessment available to all Kiwi four-year-olds.


They cover oral health; development and behaviour; height and weight; vaccinations; hearing and vision – all key elements in the health of a growing child.


And Whanganui kids are making the most of them, with the region having the second best stats in the country for completion of checks.


The government target is to get 90 per cent of four-year-olds having B4 School checks each year. In Whanganui’s case, that equated to 783 children.


In the 12 months to July, the Whanganui District Health Board exceeded that by some way with 844 completed checks, a success rate second only to South Canterbury DHB.


B4 School co-ordinator Nicola Metcalfe was delighted with the result and said it came down to a lot of hard work by a lot of people – “of which I am very proud”.


“You need good links and good networks, and we work with public health nurses; Plunket nurses; iwi organisations; Tamariki Ora; and early childhood education centres.”


Metcalfe is part of the Whanganui Regional Health Network outreach team whose job it is to track down children who haven’t been seen by their GP.


“The B4 School programme was actually piloted in Whanganui in 2008 before being rolled out across New Zealand in 2010,” she said.


A particularly pleasing aspect of the 2018-19 figures for her was that the Whanganui programme achieved equity for Māori, Pasifika and Asian four-year-olds, with all registering over 100 per cent against target.


There was also a decrease in the rate of families declining checks.


“This enforces that our families and whānau accept and value the contribution of B4 School checks to their child’s health and development before starting primary school,” Metcalfe said.


Whanganui also achieved the Ministry of Health target of 95 per cent of four-year-olds who were identified as clinically obese being referred for ongoing growth monitoring and management.


Maori teachers and children reading a book

Early childhood centres are great places for four-year-olds to get their B4 School checks.