RSPH has echoed calls by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) for the government to take strong and decisive action to tackle child health inequalities, following the release of its State of Child Health report.
The report shows that the one in five children living in poverty in the UK suffer significantly worse health than their more privileged peers:
- The infant mortality rate is more than double for those in the lowest socio-economic circumstances compared to those in the highest.
- In the most deprived areas, only 46% of infants are breastfed in contrast to 65% in the most affluent (breastfeeding has substantial health benefits for both mothers are babies).
- In the most deprived areas, two in five (40%) children are obese, in contrast to 27% in the most affluent.
The report also demonstrates that children’s health in the UK compares poorly internally, being ranked 15 out of 19 European countries for infant mortality. The UK holds one of the highest rates of smoking during pregnancy, and one of the lowest for breastfeeding.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “This comprehensive report from RCPCH paints a bleak picture of the state of child health in the UK, in particular the yawning gap in health between the richest and the poorest. All children deserve an equal chance at living long and healthy lives, regardless of the socio-economic background into which they are born.
“In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May spoke of fighting the burning injustice of health inequality. This report serves as a timely reminder that the reality still does not match the rhetoric, and that her government must do more to follow through on those promises. It is especially pertinent as the UK prepares to leave the EU that urgent action is taken to ensure we do not fall even further behind the rest of Europe in terms of our children’s health and wellbeing.
“The State of Child Health report sets out a sensible package of measures that the Government could and should take to start tackling major health challenges such as smoking, alcohol and obesity. These are measures that RSPH fully supports, particularly the prioritisation of a ‘health in all policies’ approach, the reversal of public health funding cuts, and the tightening of regulations around junk food advertising.”