Britain is “betraying” children and creating an economic time bomb by failing to give them a healthy start in life, a damning report claims today.
The Academy of Medical Sciences says lives are being ruined by increasingly unhealthy childhoods.
The body, which represents leading health scientists, is urging policymakers to act now to boost children’s well-being, focusing on the period from conception to their fifth birthday.
The report warns that failure to address their education in this “crucial” window risks creating a generation with longer-lasting illnesses that will place enormous economic pressure on the country.
The Academy’s paper ‘Prioritizing early childhood to promote the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the nation’ estimates the cost of inaction to be at least £16bn a year.
Britain is ‘betraying’ children by not giving them a healthy start in life, report concludes
The report highlighted a number of worrying health trends, including a decline in vaccination rates and an increase in preventable tooth decay and obesity.
It highlights a number of worrying health trends, including “stagnating infant mortality,” a decline in vaccine uptake, rising obesity and preventable tooth decay.
The report argues that early investment in the early years generates lifelong benefits by establishing solid foundations.
He says early childhood is a profitable time to intervene, as physically and mentally healthy children are more likely to become healthy, productive adults.
The Academy says: ‘The messages in our report are urgent because health in the early years is seriously threatened. The child survival rate in the UK has stagnated in recent years. Other child health metrics point in a similar direction.
“The prevalence of obesity is increasing, demand for child mental health services is increasing, breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in comparable high-income countries, most vaccination rates have fallen below recommended levels and tooth extractions due to preventable cavities remain a problem. Main reason for hospital admission of children.
‘The decline in children’s health and wellbeing is further exacerbated by the rising cost of living and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The most disadvantaged are hardest hit, increasing health inequalities that persist throughout life and are often passed on to subsequent generations.”
Deteriorating children’s health was further exacerbated by Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis, the report said.
The report was co-chaired by Professor Helen Minnis of the University of Glasgow.
Co-chair of the report, Professor Helen Minnis of the University of Glasgow, said: “Every child has the right to a healthy childhood.” It is shameful that the UK does not do this.
‘Child deaths are rising, child survival lags behind comparable countries and avoidable health problems affect our youngest citizens.
‘The science is clear: we are betraying our children. Unless the health of babies and young children is prioritized, we will condemn many to a life of poorer health and loss of potential. The time to act is now.’
Co-chair, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard of Oxford University, said: “It is time for the Government to adopt a clear strategy to protect the health and life chances of our children today and transform the future of our nation.”
Dr Mike McKean, Vice President of the Royal College of Paediatrics, said: “We are presiding over a crisis in children’s health that requires urgent action. As paediatricians, we witness daily the devastating consequences of these systemic failures.
“The time for excuses is over – the government must act decisively to address this crisis.”