State of Child Health Report 2017 Child health in jeopardy due to an alarming gap between rich and poor

Our experts call for a comprehensive, national, child health and wellbeing strategy, tighter controls over smoking, the sale of alcohol and a ban on advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar before 9pm.

The top three findings of the report say...

1. We are making progress, but slower than other countries

Our children and young people's health has improved across most indicators in the past 10 to 20 years. We should celebrate success and recognise that many are alive and thriving today because of our public health and NHS systems and progress through research. However, behind this progress lies a more subtle story – one of the UK falling behind other wealthy countries which have made more progress than we have. Our ambition must surely be to be in the top rank internationally for each indicator.

2. Inequality blights our children's lives

Across every indicator in this report, bar one, children from deprived backgrounds have much worse health and wellbeing than other children and young people. Children living in our wealthiest areas have health outcomes that match the best in the world. But the gaps between the rich and the poor are stark, and some of the outcomes amongst our deprived groups are amongst the worst in the developed world. It should not be this way. It must not be this way.

3. There is a clear pathway to improvement

Each indicator chapter outlines key actions needed to improve the health of our children and young people. The report also identified key recommendations that are urgently needed if we are to place all our child population in the top rank for health and wellbeing.

Scroll down for our full recommendations

But first... here is what children and young people told us what mattered to them

The RCPCH & Us® network consulted 326 children and young people across the UK

Children and young people want to be involved in the discussions and decisions that affect their health.

Children and young people shared concerns that adults working in children’s health services do not always communicate effectively and appropriately with them.

Children and young people suggested that PSHE sessions could be better used.

They could be a conduit for health literacy, and suggested using school projects, drama, visualisations, videos, social media and apps to communicate key messages, rather than lectures, leaflets or written guidance.

Mental health was highlighted as a major area of concern for children and young people.

Particularly issues around self-esteem and self-confidence (on a personal level and within relationships), lack of support in both primary and secondary schools and the need to reduce waiting times for mental health services.

Poverty was highlighted in many of the discussions, although often not explicitly talked about as ‘poverty’.

Within discussions on nutrition and diet, many were concerned about the ability to plan, budget and manage healthy food choices, with fears over not being able to ‘afford’ to eat healthily.

Our recommendations for national Governments

Develop a child health and wellbeing strategy

Adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach

Introduce a ban on the advertising of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm

Launch a national public health campaign to support breastfeeding

Expand programmes to measure the height and weight of infants and children

Reverse public health cuts in England, which are disproportionately affecting children’s services

Introduce minimum unit alcohol pricing in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, in keeping with Scotland

Extend the ban on smoking in public places to schools, playgrounds and hospitals

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

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