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'Focus on child health!' says Chief Medical Officer

A 'renewed focus' is needed on child health, the UK's lead doctor claims, after a shocking report reveals increased risks of poverty, obesity and mental health issues.  

The Chief Medical Officer's report shows there are five excess child deaths per day in the UK, compared to Sweden. 

And over a quarter (27%) of children in the UK are either living in, or at serious risk of being in poverty, compared to just 16% in the Netherlands. 

Professor Dame Sally Davies, has called on the government, the health service, education and social care to take action to improve the lives of children. 

She said: “My generation unquestioningly expected our future to be better than our parents' and grandparents'. But our children and grandchildren face a far more challenging outlook. We need a renewed focus on children.

“This report questions whether we have got the balance right in our society and should act as a wake-up call. The evidence is crystal clear and the opportunity is huge - investing in children is a certain way of improving the economic health of our nation, as well as our children's well-being.”

Professor Davies is calling for a named clinician (most likely a GP) to be available for every child with a long-term condition. 

She also believes that the National Centre for Health and Care Excellence should start a review into the cost-effectiveness of offering Health Start vitamins - which include vitamins A, C, D - to every child. 

A regular survey on mental health among children and young people, including comparisons with other developed countries, should be commissioned and published annually, to improve the evidence base for meeting young people's mental health needs, Professor Davies has said. 

The report shows that 75% of lifetime mental health disorders start before the age of 18, with the peak onset of most conditions being between the ages of 8-15. 

Around 10% of adolescent suffer from a mental health problem at any one time. 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “Children's nurses, school nurses, community children's nurses, and health visitors all have pivotal parts to play in delivering health care and we are pleased that the report recognises this. 

“The RCN strongly agrees with the Chief Medical Officer's call for more preventative work to reduce long-term health needs and for more to be done to support children and young people displaying emotional distress. We know that nurses can help to ensure children have the best possible start in life.” 

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Today's report provides a timely reminder of the challenges we face and the importance of child health in the overall health of the nation. The focus on improving evidence around mental health, widening access to leisure activity to encourage children to be active, extended training paediatric training for GPs and ensuring more effective transition between child and adult health services is all welcome and have the potential to immeasurably improve health outcomes for children.

“Investing in children is not only an investment in today's young people; it's a sound investment for the future.”