UK child health near bottom in Europe

An alarming gap between rich and poor is jeopardising UK children’s health. | Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) | OnMedica 

A report by  report by the RCPCH has revealed that despite some improvements in the health of UK children over past decades, the UK has one of the highest rates of child mortality in western Europe. The BMA said the UK is failing many of its children, who should not be paying with their health for the economic downturn.

The RCPCH reported in The State of Child Health that almost one in five children in the UK is living in poverty, and that inequality is blighting their lives – deprivation is strongly associated with higher levels of child mortality, child obesity and smoking during pregnancy, and with lower rates of breastfeeding. The College report showed that:

  • The UK ranks 15 out of 19 western European countries on infant mortality; infant mortality is more than twice as high in the lowest socio-economic groups as in the highest.
  • The prevalence of smoking during pregnancy in the UK is much higher than in many European countries and strongly associated with deprivation. In Scotland, 25.9% of women in the most deprived areas acknowledged smoking following the birth of their baby, against 3.3% in the least deprived areas. Child smoking is also much more prevalent among children from the most deprived areas.
  • Breastfeeding rates in England and Scotland have barely improved since records began in 1975, and not at all in the past five years; they are lower than in many other comparable high-income countries. Across the UK, 46% of mothers in the most deprived areas breastfed compared with 65% in the most affluent areas.
  • Across England, Scotland and Wales more than one in five children in the first year of primary school are overweight or obese. In 2015-16, 40% of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared with 27% in the most affluent areas.

RCPCH:

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