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FPH supports landmark 'State of Child Health' report

The Faculty of Public Health (FPH) strongly supports a major report warning that child health in the UK is falling behind that of many other European countries.

The State of Child Health, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, raises particular concerns over rates of obesity, mental health and mortality among the young.

Particularly troubling are inequalities in child health that have widened in the past five years.

The report for the first time brings together data on 25 measures of child health, ranging from specific conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, risk factors for poor health, such as obesity and a low rate of breastfeeding, to child deaths. The data is designed to provide an 'across the board' snapshot of child health and wellbeing in the UK.

The report says:

The UK ranks 15th out of 19 western European countries on infant (under one year of age) mortality and has one of the highest rates for children and young people in Western Europe.

There is a strong association between deprivation and mortality, for example infant mortality is more than twice as high in the lowest compared with the highest socio-economic groups.

The prevalence of smoking during pregnancy in the UK is higher than in many European countries (for example 5% in Lithuania and Sweden, compared with 19% in Scotland, 16% in Wales and 15% in Northern Ireland).
Breastfeeding in England and Scotland has shown minimal improvement since data recording commenced in 1975, with no improvement over the past five years, and remains lower than many other comparable high-income countries.
Across England, Scotland and Wales more than one in five children in the first year of primary school are overweight or obese. There has been minimal improvement in the prevalence of child overweight and obesity over the past decade.
Compiled with input from children and young people themselves, the report provides clear recommendations to improve child health, including:

  • Each UK government to develop a child health and wellbeing strategy, coordinated, implemented and evaluated across the nation
  • Each UK government to adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach
  • The UK Government to introduce a ban on the advertising of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm
  • Each UK government to develop cross-departmental support for breastfeeding; this should include a national public health campaign and a sector-wide approach that includes employers, to support women to breastfeed
  • An expansion of national programmes to measure the height and weight of infants and children after birth, before school and during adolescence
  • A reversal of public health cuts in England, which are disproportionately affecting children’s services
  • The introduction of minimum unit alcohol pricing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in keeping with actions by the Scottish Government
  • The UK Government to extend the ban on smoking in public places to schools, playgrounds and hospitals
  • The UK Government to prohibit the marketing of electronic cigarettes to children and young people
  • National public health campaigns that promote good nutrition and exercise before, during and after pregnancy.

Written: 27/01/2017 , last modified: 24/02/2017