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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK


Health

Report to blast child health policy

There is a wide gap in health between rich and poor families

The British Medical Association (BMA) will go on the offensive on Wednesday over Britain's poor standing in the world statistics measuring child health.

A report, "Growing up in Britain: Ensuring a Healthy Future for our Children", is expected to call on the government to make a far greater effort to reduce huge inequalities in health between children from rich and poor families.

The huge report, prepared by a Child Health Working Party, is expected to include a plan of action for the government.

It will identify key areas in which new research is needed to work out the effectiveness of current initiatives.

Stream of reports

This will be the second report in seven months to demand a radical approach to tackling health inequality.


[ image: Sir Donald Acheson called for government action on child health]
Sir Donald Acheson called for government action on child health
A report from former Chief Medical Officer Sir Donald Acheson, called for increased benefit for women of childbearing age, expectant mothers and young children.

It also asked for more funding for schools in deprived areas, education campaigns about the value of nutritional meals and extra restrictions on tobacco smoking in public.

Secretary of State for Health Frank Dobson said that the report would "inform the thinking" of the government.

The United Nations Development Programme now considers the UK one of the most unequal industrialised nations in the world when it comes to child health.


[ image: Poor diet during pregnancy can harm the foetus]
Poor diet during pregnancy can harm the foetus
In 1982, 10% of the UK population had an income below half of the national average. This had doubled by 1993 and currently runs at 19%.

The UK ranks 18th in the world for deaths in early childhood, behind not only fellow G8 countries Japan, Germany and France but also behind Singapore and Slovenia.

Some of the inequalities between rich and poor to which the BMA will draw attention are startling.

Infant mortality rate far higher for poor

The infant mortality rate for the poorest families is 70% higher than for those in the highest socio-economic class, and those in the lowest class as four times more likely to die in an accident.

Many serious diseases are far more common in lower socio-economic classes, including premature birth, obesity, hypertension and coronary artery disease, all of which have been blamed on poor diet.

The Child Health Monitoring Unit at the Institute of Child Health in London has carried out research into the prevalence of accidents among richer and poorer children, and its director, Dr Ian Roberts, says any government strategy must tackle the problems from several directions.

He said: "We have found that children from the lower socio-economic classes are far more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents, house fires, drownings.

"It's traditional to blame parental fecklessness, but there is no evidence to support this.

"There are a lot of factors going together - and we have to tackle them all."





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Institute of Child Health

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

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