New report highlights ‘stark inequalities’ in UK child health

Child health in the UK is falling behind that of many other European countries, says a major new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, with the gap between rich and poor getting wider.

A new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has found that the gap in health outcomes between richer and poorer UK children is rising. The report raises particular concerns over rates of obesity, mental health issues and mortality among the young. The in-depth report, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, emphasised that poverty was at the root of many child health problems.

UK health ministers said money was being invested in services to help tackle health inequalities. The report looked at 25 health indicators, including asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, as well as obesity, breastfeeding and mortality, to provide a snapshot of children’s health and wellbeing. It said there had been huge improvements in child health in the UK in the past 100 years, but since the mid-1990s “there has been a slowing of progress”.

Falling behind

This has left the UK falling behind other European nations in a number of league tables. For example, in 2014 the UK had a higher infant mortality rate (of 3.9 per 1,000 live births) than nearly all comparable Western European countries. Infant mortality ranges from 3.6 in Scotland to 3.9 in England and Wales, and 4.8 in Northern Ireland.

Baby being looked at by a paediatrician

Rates of smoking during pregnancy – an important factor in the health of babies – are higher in the UK than in many European countries, at 11.4% in England and nearly 15% in Scotland. Levels of smoking were highest in deprived populations and in mothers under 20, the report found. Also, more than one in five children starting primary school in England, Wales and Scotland are overweight or obese, and there has been little improvement in these figures over the past 10 years. Obesity leads to a significantly increased risk of serious life-long health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Little progress

Hugh Pym, the BBC’s health editor commented: “In 2010 a ground-breaking report for the government in England by Sir Michael Marmot set out the social factors governing health and pointed to the role of a child’s early years in determining life chances. Now, leading child health experts are saying that little progress has been made since then and that health inequality is still blighting the lives of young people.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is arguing that what it calls the wide gap between rich and poor is damaging infant health around the UK. The college president, Professor Neena Modi, argues that a lot more needs to be done to improve child health and that it is “particularly troubling” that “stark inequalities” have widened in the last few years”.

Source: BBC News
Main Photo: Philip Dean
Inset photo: THINKSTOCK

Author: Adrian Voce

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