Evidence continues to stack up on the impact of inequality on the health of our children with the publication of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) State of Child Health – Northern Ireland report in Belfast today
Previous IPH findings have shown 19.1% of 7 yr olds in NI experience a longstanding illness or disability with the burden of these health conditions being unequally distributed. Northern Ireland data revealed 21% of children are overweight and obese, with one third of 16 yr olds in NI consuming sugar sweetened drinks at least once a day. Children living in the most deprived areas of NI are more than twice as likely to be living with an adult smoker and 58% of 11-16 yr olds from the most deprived areas lived with an adult smoker in 2013 compared to 25% of children living in the least deprived areas. Those children living in the most deprived areas of NI are almost 5 times more likely to be injured as a pedestrian in a road collision compared with those living in the most affluent areas.
Today’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) report State of Child Health – Northern Ireland brings together data for the first time on 25 measures of child health – ranging from specific conditions such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, through to risk factors including obesity, low breastfeeding rates, and mortality – to provide a snapshot of how the UK’s children are faring when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
The RCPCH report reveals that in Northern Ireland:
- An estimated 23% of children are reported to live in poverty
- 28% of children are overweight or obese
- Less than 28% of babies at 6 weeks receive any breastmilk – the lowest level in the UK
- Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death, killing around 2,300 people a year in Northern Ireland
The RCPCH makes a series of recommendations which its authors say could have a major impact on improving child health across Northern Ireland. These include:
- The implementation of a child poverty strategy
- A ‘child health in all policies’ approach
- A ban on smoking in cars when children are present – which is currently already in place across the other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland
- The introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- An expansion of national programmes to measure children after birth, before school and in adolescence
- A graduated driving licensing scheme for novice drivers
- A regular survey commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive to identify the prevalence of mental health problems among children and young people in order to aid the planning of mental health care services
- Appropriate mental health support offered in all primary and post primary schools in Northern Ireland
- The report, which has been compiled by child health experts with input from children and young people, argues that without interventions to close the gap between rich and poor, and targeted policies to improve child health, Northern Ireland will continue to fail its children when it comes to their health.