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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 12:21 GMT
Labour: We'll save 3,000 children
Child poverty
Labour pledges to reduce health inequalities
Labour says it can improve the health of the UK's poorest children.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn says Labour's plans to tackle infant mortality will result in about 3,000 lives saved by 2010.

He said they will reduce the gap in health inequalities between children of different social classes - starting with improving the health of the under ones.

At the moment a boy born into one of the most disadvantaged sectors has life expectancy of nine years less than one from an affluent sector of society.


I want every child to get the best start in life, so they all get the opportunity to do well

Health Secretary, Alan Milburn

Girls from the poorest sections of society live five years less than those from the most affluent groups.

And death rates for children under one are more than three times higher in some of the worst-off areas in the country.

Mr Milburn pledged that, if they are re-elected, Labour will make asthma a priority and put more cash into neonatal intensive care provision.

There will be better health education for new mothers to encourage them to quit smoking and give their child the best start possible.

Mr Milburn has already promised free fruit to 80,000 school children and on Wednesday morning the first deliveries were made.

Free fruit

He explained that improving the diet of children is a way of tackling the health of the nation in generations to come.

He said: "I want every child to get the best start in life, so they all get the opportunity to do well.

"Children from the poorest families eat less fruit and vegetables. People in the poorest areas also have the highest rates of cancer and heart disease."

In his speech to the Alliance of Long Term Medical Conditions at the Royal College of Physicians in London, Mr Milburn said tackling Labour would be tackling poverty and health inequalities.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn promises to tackle inequalities

He said: "There is a particularly strong correlation between social class and long-term health conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy; and a fundamental and consistent link between poverty and ill-health.

"I believe government has a responsibility to attempt to break that link."

Screening health

Mr Milburn said the Government will publish a league table showing the best and worst areas in the country from next year.

Coronary heart disease, cancer, smoking and diet will all be targeted for improval.

Labour has also pledged to increase the breast screening programmes to include women aged 65-70. This means more than 400,000 extra women being screened each year.

Areas with the biggest problems will be given more cash from 2003 to help them close the health inequality gap.

As a start 130 million has been allocated to 50 or more health authorities with high premature life loss.

Yve Buckland, chair of the Health Development Agency (HDA) and a member of the Inequalities Taskforce said they were pleased health inequalities are being tackled.

She said: "We know that certain factors determine and have an impact on a person's health.

"These include level of education, housing and job opportunities as well as the diet and smoking habits of individuals.

"We know for example that smoking accounts for at least half of the health inequalities between the poorest and wealthiest in England."

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15 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Focus on inequalities in health
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