A UK child born into socioeconomic deprivation today faces life with one hand tied behind their back and spending on children’s health is as important as financing key infrastructure projects like HS2.
That was our view at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood as we launched our 9th report.
‘The Impact of Social and Economic Inequalities on Child Health’ welcomed the overall upward trajectory of UK child health. Between 1980 – 2009, deaths in the 1-14 year age group decreased by 61% (‘State of Child Health’, Royal Colleges of Paediatric and Child Health, 2017) and progress was boosted by health promotion, disease prevention and treatment and effective immunisation programmes. Yet our new report shows that the children of deprivation are as likely to experience the adverse social, educational and employment outcomes of poor health as they ever were.
Wealthier, better-educated people residing in good quality housing are likely to enjoy the good health that will herald success in other areas of life. Prosperity for some and disadvantage for others, is, as ever, rooted in the childhood experience.
Lead author, Helen Clark, claimed that children’s health was an essential infrastructure spend rather than an ‘add on’ to be gifted ‘when resources allow’:
‘Rabbits can’t be pulled out of hats, but, like Alice, Government is looking through the wrong side of the glass,’ she said:
‘Everybody in the policy equation must re-appraise the way that they work with children and families. But the impact of socioeconomic inequalities on children’s health is going to cost – and that’s a necessary expense: not just for today’s children but for their children.
Right now, whilst some parts of the community thrive, others nearby are bedevilled by existing inequalities that are becoming ever more entrenched. You wouldn’t build your house on sand and in the same way, the UK’s economy needs a sound infrastructure. That means some serious investment in children’s health and the early intervention measures that can build healthier lives – and in some cases, even save them.’