Analysis published by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) suggests that the health of children in the UK is hugely dependent on geographical location.
The disparity between the experience and physical well-being of young people is so stark as to be reasonably defined as a ‘postcode lottery’.
This divergence in the health of children is perhaps best summed up by the fact that a child in a reception class in Barking and Dagenham is over 250 per cent more likely to be obese than a child of the same age in Richmond upon Thames. Yet only 18 miles separate these two areas.
In similar statistical indicators, a 5 year-old child in Leicester is over five times more likely to have tooth decay than a similarly aged child in West Sussex.
On a broader regional level, it is clear that the south east benefits from significantly above average health in UK terms. It is estimated, based on the NCB research, that over 15,000 case of ill-health could be prevented if children in the north west had access to the same level of health and development.
The study will undoubtedly raise questions about inequality in the UK, and particularly whether wealthier areas of the country benefit from superior services.
Data compiled by the NCB clearly indicates that young people who grow up in areas of relative deprivation are simply far more likely to suffer from ill health and poor development.
Children in the 30 most deprived local authorities were significantly more likely than those in privileged areas to suffer from obesity, tooth decay, accidental injuries and lower educational development.
While more research needs to be carried out in order to understand all of the reasons behind this, the National Children’s Bureau still concluded that there is an inextricable link between poverty and relatively poor health.
Speaking on behalf of the NCB, its Chief Executive, Anna Feuchtwang, had the following to say:
“It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.
“As these variations are closely linked to poverty, with those in areas with the highest levels of deprivation more likely to suffer from a range of health issues, we have to ask whether England is becoming a nation of two halves?
“The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.
“We need local and national government to make the same efforts to narrow the gap in health outcomes across the country for under-fives as has been made to narrow the gap in achievement between poor and rich pupils in school. Government must make it a national mission over the next five years to ensure that the heath and development of the first five years of a child’s life is improved.”
Full regional and local health data from the report can be acquired online by clicking here.