UK risks ‘failing a generation’ over child health, says reportTanaka Chitsa
The UK is in danger of failing a generation of children and young people when it comes to child heath, a report has warned.
It says the country is at risk of “lagging behind” other European nations when it comes to key indicators such as death rates, obesity and vaccination levels.
The report – by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) – says the UK is performing either comparatively poorly or its progress is stalling.
Health outcomes for children from deprived areas are nearly always worse and such inequalities have widened since the 2017 report, according to the RCPCH.
Key findings of the State of Child Health report include:
- Infant mortality – deaths of children under one – has stalled in England and the UK generally since 2014. The report says a “very slight rise” in 2016/17 in England is “extremely unusual and should be a cause for concern”.
- Breastfeeding rates are at the lowest level since 2009; only 42.7% of mothers in England are breastfeeding at six weeks. There have been small increases in the other UK nations.
- There are “signs of decline” in vaccination rates for the six-in-one vaccination and MMR between 2014 and 2018.
- The rate of obese or overweight children starting school hasn’t significantly improved in the UK since 2006/7.
- Four million children are said to be living in “relative poverty”.
Dr Ronny Cheung, co-author of the report, said: “The harsh reality is that, in terms of health and wellbeing, children born in the UK are often worse off than those born in other comparably wealthy countries.
“This is especially true if the child is from a less well-off background.”
RCPCH president Professor Russell Viner said: “On many vital measures we risk lagging behind other European countries… we’re in danger of failing a generation if we don’t turn this situation around.”
Head of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Claire Ainsley, said the report painted a “troubling picture” and the outcomes for poorer children were “simply not acceptable”.
She said: “To break poverty’s grip on children’s health across the country we need to see real investment in all the professional health support families need, as well as ensuring that there is a clear route out of poverty for this generation and the next.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said “tackling health inequalities is a priority for the Government” and it was “taking urgent steps to improve child health”.
She added: “We have launched the most ambitious plan in the world to cut childhood obesity by half by 2030, we are transforming children’s mental health to treat to give 70,000 more children access to services by next year and we are improving maternity services.”
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