Bob Elliott with a Cure Kids Ambassador
For more than a year, an extraordinary public spotlight has been cast upon the incredible work of health scientists, epidemiologists and vaccinologists in the face of a global pandemic. Cure Kids shares the same relentless drive for prevention, treatment and cures –not just for one condition, but for all of the serious health conditions affecting our tamariki.
Sadly, in August last year, the man who founded Cure Kids passed away in his home, aged 86. Fifty years earlier, Professor Sir Bob Elliott KNZM had the visionary foresight to know that unless we started investing specifically in child health research in New Zealand, we would drop further down in the OECD health rankings.
Professor Sir Bob Elliott and co-founder Dr Ron Caughey established the Child Health Research Foundation with a generous grant from Rotary. Now known as Cure Kids, the organisation has become the country’s largest funder of child health research outside of government.
This year, Cure Kids celebrates our 50th anniversary, and the passing of our beloved Sir Bob has given us an even stronger drive to continue his life- changing work. We carry this precious  mantle with us today. We are passionately focused on funding research into those health issues which are preventable and a result of the social inequities and deprivation in our country,
Let me paint a startling picture.
While New Zealand has some of the highest living standards in the world, this does not translate into high standards of health and wellbeing for our children. Unicef recently ranked the health and wellbeing of New Zealand children 38th out of 41 developed countries. This puts us behind countries like Bulgaria, Chile and Mexico.
Each year 40,000 Kiwi kids under the age of 14 are hospitalised for poverty-related health conditions.
Rheumatic fever is a stark example of such inequities – a disease eradicated in most OECD nations yet disproportionately affecting Māori and Pasifika in New Zealand, making up 95% of new cases nationally.
Around 40% of 5-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.
Respiratory conditions are the leading cause of acute admissions to hospital for children, with ‘asthma and wheeze’ the most frequent diagnosis. Māori and Pasifika children, and children living in areas of high deprivation have the highest hospitalisation rates for respiratory conditions.
Rates of hospitalisation for serious skin infections are highest in Pasifika, Māori, children younger than 5 years, and children living in areas with high socioeconomic deprivation.
These shocking, and quite frankly, shameful statistics are the reason Cure Kids has taken the move upon our 50th anniversary year to create the Elliott-Caughey Fund, a $10 million pool of funding dedicated entirely to research that addresses illnesses linked to deprivation.
Work is being done both by government and the private sector to address sub-standard housing conditions, high living costs, inequalities in education, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and we absolutely must keep that momentum going.
But early intervention and    prevention     in a     medical     sense is paramount too. That’s why it’s an honour to be able to fund New Zealand’s brightest child health researchers, who devote their lives to finding preventions, treatments and cures to ensure our children have healthier lives with a brighter future. Our researchers are the cream of the crop of New Zealand’s child health research workforce.
What excites me most about our researchers’ work is the potential for any New Zealand-derived research breakthroughs to translate into international impact.
Imagine if our Kiwi researchers could find local, ground-breaking solutions for rheumatic heart disease and impart this knowledge with third world countries where the same issues are rife.
So, to reflect on both the previous and next 50 years of our work, on behalf of everyone at Cure Kids, I want to acknowledge our supporters – our generous donors who make our funding possible, the dedicated researchers with endless questions to solve, and the brave children at the heart of our cause in the first place.
However, the most timely acknowledgement must go to the legacy of the late Sir Bob Elliott and Dr Ron Caughey. For these two fine gentleman, I want our vision of healthier children with brighter futures to be widely known, and for Cure Kids to be the absolute partner of choice for government policy makers, budding researchers, corporate supporters, and our team of five million Kiwis, who have the biggest of hearts and who are generous with their giving.
By Frances Benge, Chief Executive - Cure Kids [Sourced from District 9910 August Newsletter]