Poor statistics prompt action
Taumarunui has the dubious distinction of leading the country’s statistics for pregnant women who are overweight or smokers
In Taumarunui, 70 per cent of pregnant women are overweight or obese.
Waikato DHB research shows the proportion of pregnant women classified as obese or overweight in the three towns - Taumarunui, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti ranges from 50 to 70 per cent.
And that’s not the only startling statistic - one in two smoke during pregnancy, more than three times the national average.
Smoking and obesity during pregnancy can cause a range of health complications for mothers and babies.
Poverty is a big part of the problem, Taumarunui midwife Karen Walker said.
‘‘We have a really high deprivation score. We have a high number of people with additional risk factors for things like obesity, smoking ... [mothers] are at risk of having growth-restricted babies.’’
Walker said maternity services are dysfunctional and too limited for such a vulnerable community.
A survey by the Waikato DHB found 66 per cent of Taumarunui children live in conditions considered to be at the highest deprivation levels, compared with 25 per cent in the Waikato DHB district overall.
There isn’t enough support or education and midwives are stretched too thin, Walker said.
‘‘It certainly creates an anxiety and a pressure to us midwives. There are only two of us [in Taumarunui].
‘‘It’s almost that [the system is] set up to fail.’’
Dr Tim Malloy, president of Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said Ma¯ ori people living in isolated rural areas were particularly at risk for health complications and therefore need more help.
The DHB will focus on addressing Ma¯ ori health inequalities and creating an integrated maternity hub for the three problem towns by adopting a lead maternity carer model (LMC).
Te Kuiti’s birthing unit will close. Money will be reinvested back into providing closer and more accessible support services for all three towns and upgrading facilities in Tokoroa and Taumarunui.
‘‘They’re pretty tacky ... [We’ll] make them a more pleasant place to be.