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UK child health at risk due to gap between rich and poor, according to new report

An alarming gap between rich and poor is leaving the health and well-being of the UK’s children in jeopardy, according to a major report.
Poverty-Alamy.jpg

An alarming gap between rich and poor is leaving the health and well-being of the UKs children in jeopardy, according to a major report.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) urges the government to introduce a comprehensive national strategy and reverse cuts to public health, as well as tighten controls over smoking, the sale of alcohol and advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

The RCPCH has created a snapshot of child health and well-being in the UK, ranging from obesity and breastfeeding rates to asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and child deaths.

RCPCH president Neena Modi said: The health of infants, children and young people in the UK has improved considerably over the last 30 years.

But it

An alarming gap between rich and poor is leaving the health and well-being of the UK’s children in jeopardy, according to a major report.


Children living in deprived areas are much more likely to be in poor health,
a national report has found. Picture: Alamy

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) urges the government to introduce a comprehensive national strategy and reverse cuts to public health, as well as tighten controls over smoking, the sale of alcohol and advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

The RCPCH has created a snapshot of child health and well-being in the UK, ranging from obesity and breastfeeding rates to asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and child deaths.

RCPCH president Neena Modi said: ‘The health of infants, children and young people in the UK has improved considerably over the last 30 years.

‘But it is tragic that the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy because of an alarming gap between rich and poor.

One in five 

‘Children living in the most deprived areas are much more likely to be in poor health, be overweight or obese, suffer from asthma, have poorly-managed diabetes, experience mental health problems, and die early.

‘Poor health in infancy, childhood, and young adult life will ultimately mean poor adult health and this, in turn, will mean a blighted life and poor economic productivity.’

The State of Child Health report says that one in five children in the UK is living in poverty, with those from the most deprived backgrounds experiencing much worse health compared with the most affluent.

The research found that in England, Scotland and Wales, more than one in five children in the first year of primary school were overweight or obese.

The report states that in 2015-2016, 40% of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared with 27% in the most affluent areas.

Advertising curfews

Among the measures demanded by the RCPCH is a ban on advertising for foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm.

It also called for improved support for breastfeeding and an expansion of programmes to measure the height and weight of youngsters.

The report also supports a minimum unit alcohol pricing policy, similar to that in Scotland, and extending the ban on smoking in public places and a ban on marketing of electronic cigarettes to young people.

Public Health England chief nurse Viv Bennett said: ‘Overall, the health of children in England is improving. Infant mortality rates and child hospital admission rates are going down. We are also seeing fewer teenagers smoking or using harmful substances.

Taking action 

‘But we agree that we have a major problem with childhood obesity and poor dental health, largely driven by sugar consumption.

‘Wealth and population health are inextricably linked, which is why narrowing the health gaps between rich and poor communities underpins everything we do.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said it was investing more than £16 billion in local government public health services over the next five years.

‘The spokesperson added: ‘There is more to do, but we have shown that we are willing to take tough action to protect public health and especially that of children. This includes banning smoking in cars if children are present, introducing a soft drinks industry levy and publishing a comprehensive childhood obesity strategy.’


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