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Revealed: postcode lottery of children's health

There is a huge gap in levels of obesity, injury and early childhood development for under-fives across England, a report by the National Children's Bureau revealed.

The report Poor Beginnings reveals what the bureau calls “startling variations”, with a child in reception class in Barking and Dagenham over two and a half times more likely to be obese than a child of the same age in Richmond upon Thames, just 18 miles down the road.

In October, the responsibility of health services for the under-fives, as well as for health visitors will transfer from NHS England to local authorities.

In response, Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children's Bureau, said: “It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.”

Similarly, a young child on the Isle of Wight is over four times more likely to be admitted to hospital with an injury than one of their peers in Westminster.

However, the report also showed that the link between growing up in a deprived area and poor health is not inevitable, as some less prosperous areas (for example Hartlepool, South Tyneside and Islington) had better than average child health.

 

Another trend was also a North/South divide, for example if under-fives in the North West enjoyed the same health and development as those in the South East, more than 15,000 cases of ill-health could be prevented.

This includes 31% fewer under-fives admitted to hospital with an injury - equivalent to over 2,500 cases a year, 19% fewer obese four to five-year-olds - equivalent to over 1,600 children a year, and 11% more children achieving a good level of development by the end of reception class - or around 5,500 children per year.

In light of this, Feuchtwang added: “Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.”