Towards a Child-Centred Public Health: Lessons from Rheumatic Fever Prevention in Aotearoa New Zealand

– Children & Society, 2020 –

“Neglecting children’s perspectives has important consequences, not only for children’s wellbeing and experience, but for an intervention’s success. I argue that good child health policy should be predicated on regard for children as whole people: as social actors and participants in public life, whose experiences, understandings, interpretations and practices matter and can mediate the effectiveness of policy interventions.”

Spray, pp553

Children’s perspectives rarely appear at strategic levels in public health. Policy-makers can hold adult-centric assumptions about children, and may be uncertain about how to interpret and apply children’s perspectives in policy. Yet how children experience and perceive health interventions can shape the success of services. What, then, might child-centred approaches to health policy consider? Through ethnographic work in New Zealand, I document how children engage with a school rheumatic fever prevention service, and provide a framework of three lenses through which policy-makers can more meaningfully consider children’s perspectives on health: 1) The embodied-child, 2) The social-child, and 3) The public-child.

Keywords: Child-Centred Approaches; Public Health; Public Policy; Rheumatic Fever; New Zealand

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