William Eichler 23 January 2018

‘Fragmented’ approach to child health damaging nation, paediatricians say

‘Fragmented’ approach to child health damaging nation, paediatricians say

The Government’s ‘fragmented’ approach to child health care is damaging the health of the nation, paediatricians warn.

A new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), entitled State of Child Health: One year on, has warned ‘child health is suffering at the hands of a disjointed approach from central Government’.

It also concluded Scotland and Wales were doing better than England when it came to children’s health.

The report acknowledged some progress had been made in England, such as the launching of the Digital Child Health Strategy, but warned there had been no improvement in several fundamental areas.

It said there were no plans for an overarching child health strategy and no increased investment in child health research.

The report also highlighted the fact the Government had failed to ban junk food advertising or introduce a way of measuring UK breastfeeding prevalence.

However, the RCPCH said the greatest areas for concern was the ‘deepening public health cuts’ which have worsened in the last year and are disproportionately affecting children’s services.

Public health spending is over 5% lower in 2017-18 compared with 2013-14.

Scotland and Wales are, however, making ‘greater strides’ in enacting policies to improve child health.

The former has, for example, passed the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act with defined poverty reduction targets and introduced a new Mental Health Strategy, including a commitment to improve transition to adult services.

Wales has introduced the Public Health (Wales) Act has been enacted which includes extending bans on smoking in public places to school grounds, playgrounds and NHS grounds.

Responding to the report, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘Councils have long-warned that unless more decisive action is taken, both individually and through targeted initiatives, the potential consequences of the impact on children’s health later in life could be devastating.

‘Evidence shows that intervening in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can make a difference across their lifetime.

‘But with council’s public health grant funding being cut by £531m between 2015/16 and 2019/2020 and councils facing a £2bn funding gap to children’s services by 2020, it is making that task harder.’

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