Health of Children from Different Socio-Economic Backgrounds Widens

  • Research shows that health inequalities between richest and poorest children in more pronounced.

    Despite efforts to tackle health inequalities across different socio-economic groups, research shows the gap has widened in the last decade and officials need to make a concerted effort to narrow it.

     The research based on data from the Health Survey for England comparing children from birth to age 24 to see whether the efforts to tackle health inequalities in children has worked.

    The evidence they found when comparing children of different socio-economic background showed that it had not decreased but in fact there was evidence that showed an increase in the gap.

    It is also expected to rise futher in the coming years following an increase in poverty as a consequence of the recession and changes in the financial climate

    The authors of the report say that officials need to make a concerted effort to lessen the gap between the health of richer and poorer children to compensate for the rise in poverty.

    The researchers, from University College London's Institute of Child Health and London's Imperial College NHS Trust, analysed the data  from between 1999 and 2009 from reports of general health, the presence of a long-standing illness as well as whether they were smokers or obese.

    The results are disappointing  as ministers have set up a series of proposals intending to reduce the inequalities between 1999 and 2009, including increases to benefit payments and higher spending on health, education and housing and a number of initiatives such as the Sure Start centres for low-income families.

    The researchers say this is not enough as the results show the gap widening.

    The report says:

    The national programme between 1999 and 2009 was not successful in reducing inequality in four key indicators of health status and future health risk among children and young people.

    Whereas inequality in infant mortality decreased over this period, we found that inequality in general health, long-standing illness, smoking and obesity among children and young people either remained unchanged or increased between 1999 and 2009.

    We propose that expected increases in child poverty may exacerbate the challenge of reducing child health inequalities in the future and we call for a concerted policy response.

    Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:

    Every child should have the same opportunity to be healthy, no matter where they live or who they are.

    There is now a legal duty for the NHS to tackle health inequalities and I recently announced the expansion of family nurse partnerships so that 16,000 of the most disadvantaged families can have more help and support.

    There are also over 1,000 more health visitors compared to 2010.


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