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Child health: “Government must back positive moves by tackling child poverty”

Child poverty, cuts to public health services and uncertainties about Brexit pose substantial threats to progress in child health.

That’s the finding of a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health analysis which considers the progress made against the policy recommendations of its State of Child Health 2017 report.

On the positive side, the RCPCH congratulates the Government on its commitment to child health, commending them on bold pledges in areas such as obesity, mental health and the integration of children’s health services.

However, the political uncertainty caused by Brexit looms large, raising legitimate concerns about recruiting enough children’s doctors and nurses and access to medicines and to EU funding for vital child health research.

The report calls on the Government to act now to ensure a focus on the children’s workforce and investment in child health research are prioritised.

It also says that England continues to lag behind other Western European countries on a range of child health outcomes.

There are challenges in reducing child poverty and inequality, with universal early years’ services continuing to bear the brunt of cuts to public health services. Furthermore, infant mortality reductions have stalled after a century of improvement.

Progress has been in a number of areas including child and adolescent mental health and childhood obesity.

A mental health prevalence survey is to be conducted every seven years and Government has announced substantial investment in community-based mental health services.

The soft drinks industry levy has also been introduced, the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan proposes restrictions on junk food marketing, price promotions and food labelling, and NHS England has committed to a targeted support offer and access to weight management services in primary care for obese children.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH, said: “Child poverty and inequality could undo much of the progress we are seeing.

“Deprivation is a major contributing factor to poor child health outcomes and can lead to higher rates of poor mental health, increased alcohol or substance misuse, obesity, and death.”

Read the full report.

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