Doctors call for children to be top priority as Australia recovers from pandemic
Australia’s doctors have called for children to be made a top priority as the country enters a third year of global pandemic.
Speaking through The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) paediatricians and specialist physicians launched a major campaign last month calling for children’s health and wellbeing to be a top priority for COVID-19 pandemic recovery through the establishment of a national taskforce to address the major setbacks that children and young people have faced due to the pandemic.
The RACP’s Kids COVID Catch Up Campaign is calling on all parties to commit to appointing a National Chief Paediatrician to provide clinical leadership on child health and wellbeing issues across Australia.
RACP President and Respiratory Physician, Professor John Wilson says that children and young people were hit hard during the pandemic, and that the country simply can’t wait any longer to take action and protect children.
“There is a lot at stake if we don’t get this right and help our children recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The pandemic has also amplified existing inequalities across our communities, impacting children from low socio-economic backgrounds, First Nations children, children from culturally diverse backgrounds, children with disability and children experiencing family violence,” Professor Wilson said.
Some of the long term impacts on children’s learning and development have yet to be seen, RACP President-elect and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small continued.
“Because of the pandemic’s more serious impact for adults – we’ve seen the health and wellbeing of children take a backseat,” she said. “Support from the early learning sector is vital in helping our campaign to help children catch up from the setbacks of the pandemic.”
“It’s time to put children first. Whether it’s the loss of learning from missed face-to-face teaching, the emotional impact of reduced social connection with their peers, or the lack of access to sport, recreational and cultural activities, the COVID-19 pandemic has overturned many parts of children’s lives.”
“There is an urgent need for a national recovery plan to help the nation’s children catch up from the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While she welcomed the return to school and other routine elements for children at the start of the year, there is an urgent need to identify the true emotional, physical and developmental impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had.
A 2021 study in Australia found that 60 per cent of caregivers surveyed reported their child’s overall health and wellbeing had been impacted by the restrictions, home isolation, and disruption to routines. For families accessing behavioral therapy for their children, 71 per cent felt access had been disrupted.
The Kids COVID Catch Up campaign brings together medical specialists, healthcare professionals, families, teachers and young people from across the country to call on all parties to commit to:
- Establish a National COVID-19 taskforce to lead a recovery plan
- Appoint and fund a National Chief Paediatrician
- Fund and Implement the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy
- Increase Commonwealth funding for evidence-based school support, such as tutoring, for students with disability or learning difficulties
- Implement universal access to early education programs for all three-year olds
- Restrict marketing of unhealthy diets to children and young people through regulation.
Learn more about the campaign here.
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