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Health camps

Children play in the sea at Otaki Health Camp
Children play in the sea at Otaki Health Camp 1945, Photograph by John Pascoe (1908–72), New Zealand, courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (John Pascoe Collection, 1/4-001947-F)
'We have come far, from city and plain,
Our health and happiness to regain,
To strengthen our bodies and free them from pain,
To live in the health camp way.'
Health camp song, 1940s

In 1938, the New Zealand government began managing the children's health camps that had been established privately in the 1920s. It set up permanent camps around the country. Annual stamps raised money for the camps.

The camps' role of boosting children's health included supporting the school dental service in promoting messages about dental care. In the 1940s, the 'tooth-brush drill' was part of the daily camp routine.

By the 1950s, most schoolchildren were given full health checks. The main reasons for a health-camp stay were undernourishment, poverty, and neglect, along with medical conditions such as asthma. Some children felt they'd failed if selected. For others, the camps were welcome relief and an exciting adventure. 

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.