Children in poorer areas ‘more prone to ill-health’ – charity

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Privileged children in affluent parts of England are more likely to be healthier than those in deprived areas, a leading charity says.

The health of under-fives varies depending on financial status, according to the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

Some 9.5 percent of four and five year olds across England are obese, 25 percent of five year olds have tooth decay and 48,000 are admitted to hospital for injury each year.

The NCB’s Poor Beginnings report, which compares 30 of the most deprived areas with the 30 most affluent, found that children under five from poor areas are more prone to obesity, tooth decay, accidental injuries and lower educational development.

While only 18.4 percent of children living in the 30 richest areas suffer from tooth decay, this rises to 31.6 percent in four to five year olds in the 30 most deprived areas, the report published on Monday found.

The study revealed that leveling out these differences could improve the health of thousands of youngsters every year in England.

If under-fives in the North West enjoyed the same health and development as those in the South East, over 15,000 cases of ill health would be prevented every year, the report said.

There would also be 43 percent fewer five year olds suffering tooth decay, 31 percent fewer admissions to hospital and 19 percent fewer cases of obesity.

According to the report’s findings, a five year old in Leicester is five times more likely to have tooth decay than one in West Sussex.

Likewise, a child in a reception class in Barking and Dagenham in northeast London is over two-and-a-half times more likely to be obese than one in Richmond upon Thames in southwest London – 18 miles away – the report found.

A child living in the Isle of Wight is more than four times more likely to be admitted to hospital with an injury than a youngster in Westminster, it said.

But poor early health is “not inevitable” for children growing up in underprivileged areas, the report found, as some local authorities achieved better results than expected.

The NCB said the study’s findings suggest deep class inequality in England. Its authors urge ministers to make it a “national mission” to improve the lives of underprivileged children.

Work is urgently needed to understand what local health services can now do to lessen the impact of living in a deprived area,” chief executive of the NCB Anna Feuchtwang said in a statement.

The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Government must make it a national mission over the next five years to ensure that the health and development of the first five years of a child’s life is improved.”

In response, a Department of Health (DoH) spokesperson said the government is determined to work closely with other departments “to give all children the best start in life.”

For example, we have increased the number of midwives and health visitors, and later this year our childhood obesity strategy will outline how we will help children lead healthier lives.

The variations found in this report underline the need for devolving public health spending to local areas who know the issues which affect their population.”