Child health in Scotland ‘amongst worst in Europe’, reveals new report

The report reveals  new figures showing 27 per cent of children in Scotland are overweight or obese. Pic: Graham Hamilton/TSPL

The report reveals new figures showing 27 per cent of children in Scotland are overweight or obese. Pic: Graham Hamilton/TSPL

Poverty remains biggest cause of poor health amongst Scotland’s children.

This is according to child health experts, as the landmark State of Child Health – Scotland report recommends bold action on smoking, obesity and reducing child mortality.

The alarming gap between rich and poor is risking the health of Scotland’s children, warns the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in its State of Child Health – Scotland report.

The State of Child Health brings together data for the first time on 25 measures ranging from specific child health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, through to measures including obesity, breastfeeding rates, and mortality, to provide a snapshot of how the UK’s children are faring when it comes to their health. It reveals concerns about the state of child heath across the UK, with figures in Scotland showing: Over 210,000 children live in poverty; 27 per cent of children are overweight or obese, over 29 per cent of pregnant women in the most deprived areas are smokers; only 15.4 per cent of mothers in the most deprived areas were exclusively breastfeeding at the six-eight week review, compared to 53 per cent of mothers in the least deprived and 400 children and infants die each year, with a significant number of these deaths potentially avoidable.

Dr Steve Turner, RCPCH Officer for Scotland, said: “Scotland leads the way in many aspects of child health but

there are significant gaps and the problem of health inequalities is continuing to grow. It is startling that over 29 per cent of pregnant women in the most deprived areas are smokers, compared to just 4.5 per cent in the least deprived, putting babies at risk of complications during pregnancy and birth and increasing the likelihood of cot death or still birth.”

The report makes a series of recommendations including: A target of less than 10 per cent of children experiencing relative low income poverty; an extension of the ban on smoking in public places to school grounds and sports fields and playgrounds; Government targets to improve rates of mothers breastfeeding and the extension of national programmes to measure children after birth, before school and in adolescence and a robust child death overview system in place by 2018.

Dr Turner added: “ In addition to specific actions, we want to see Scottish Government adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach. That means that whatever policies are made, from whatever Government department, they must consider the impact on child health. Healthy children make healthy adults, so it makes not only moral, but economic sense to invest early.

“We also want to see Scottish Government plug the gaps in child health data – particularly in areas such as mental health, disability and obesity. In order to target services appropriately, we have to know the extent of the problem and at the moment that information is patchy.”