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Child health should be election priority say experts and public

Policies for elderly must not be at expense of young

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 02 March 2015

The next government must make child health a high priority, paediatricians have said today. 

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is calling on politicians to protect child health with bold policies after a poll finds:

• Two thirds of Britons support banning advertising of food high in fat, sugar and salt on TV before 9pm

• 90% back cooking and nutrition lessons in schools

• 82% back introducing compulsory personal, social and health education (PSHE) in primary and secondary schools

The poll, conducted by ComRes and commissioned by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, coincides with the College’s Child Health Debate, being held in London tomorrow (Tuesday 3 March) featuring Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter MP, Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb MP and Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP.

Reducing child death rates (76%), reducing rates of childhood cancer (77%) and ensuring consistent health service provision for children and young people across the UK (77%) were the top three child health issues that the public feel should be priorities for government, with Britons showing high levels of support for policies to help tackle obesity (59%), lower the UK’s child mortality rates and address concerns around children’s mental health (69%).

The poll of 2,118 UK adults also indicates that:

• 63% of the public back reallocating part of the NHS budget for urgent and emergency care to the prevention of illness (such as promoting active lifestyles and healthy eating) and provision of community care services

• 94% say children’s healthcare should be an important priority for the NHS

Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “We often see policies hitting the headlines that are targeted at the ageing population - increased funding for dementia research and additional dementia training for NHS workers are among the pledges that have been made in recent weeks. But whilst caring for our ageing population is important, it shouldn’t mean that children’s health falls to the wayside.

“This poll shows that the voting public care as much about child health as they do care for the elderly.

“Many health issues experienced later in life can be triggered during childhood. We need to better support children from infant to child, through to teen and into adulthood – we’ll only be able to do this by making small yet significant policy changes directly targeted to meet their needs.”

Dr Hilary Cass added: “Let’s face the facts. The UK has the worst child mortality rate in Western Europe, has the highest rate of childhood obesity and has an estimated 850,000 children and young people living with a serious mental health conditions - 76% of 5-15yr olds with anxiety or diagnosable depression are not in contact with mental health services.

“These are figures that are going to see little improvement if bold policies are not put in place to directly address them. What’s needed is urgent and increased investment in children’s mental health services and policies like taxation of foods high in salt, sugar and fat, compulsory PSHE lessons in all schools and heightened road safety measures such as 20mph zones – policies that are backed by the public.

“I call on the next government to listen to the facts and listen to the public – make child health a priority. Not only does it make strong moral sense, it makes economic and political sense too.”

The RCPCH has set out its policy recommendations Vision 2015 which are viewable online.

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