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 blighted by increasingly unhealthy childhoods.
The body, which represents leading health scientists, urges politicians to act now to boost kids’ wellbeing, with a focus on the period from conception to their fifth birthday.
The report warns that failing to address their upbringing in this ‘crucial’ window risks creating a generation with more long-term illnesses which will place a huge economic strain on the country.
The Academy’s paper ‘Prioritising early childhood to promote the nation’s health, wellbeing and prosperity’, estimates the cost of inaction to be at least £16billion a year.
Britain is ‘betraying’ children by failing to give them a healthy start in life, a report has concluded
The report highlighted a series of worrying health trends, including a decline in vaccination rates and increasing preventable tooth decay and obesity
It highlights a series of worrying health trends, including ‘stalling infant mortality’, a decline in vaccine uptake, soaring obesity and preventable tooth decay.
The report argues ‘front-loading’ investment in the earliest years delivers lifelong benefits by establishing healthy foundations.
It says early childhood is a cost-effective time to intervene as physically and mentally healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy, productive adults.
The Academy states: ‘The messages of our report are urgent because health in the early years is under serious threat. The infant survival rate in the UK has stalled in recent years. Other metrics of child health point in a similar direction.
‘The prevalence of obesity is increasing, demands on childhood mental health services are growing, breastfeeding rates are amongst the lowest of comparable high-income countries, the majority of vaccination rates have fallen below recommended levels and dental extractions due to preventable tooth decay remain a top reason for hospital admission of children.
‘The decline in child health and wellbeing is further compounded by increases in the cost of living and the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Those most disadvantaged are impacted most strongly, widening health inequalities which persist throughout life and are often transmitted to subsequent generations.’
The decline in child 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 from the University of Glasgow
Report co-chair, Professor Helen Minnis of the University of Glasgow, said: ‘Every child has the right to a healthy childhood. It is shameful the UK is failing to provide this.
‘Child deaths are rising, infant survival lags behind comparable countries and preventable health issues plague our youngest citizens.
‘The science is clear – we are betraying our children. Unless the health of babies and young children is prioritised, we condemn many to a life of poorer health and lost potential. The time to act is now.’
Fellow co-chair, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard from the University of Oxford, said: ‘It is time for a clear strategy by government 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 child health that demands urgent action. As paediatricians, we witness daily the devastating consequences of these systemic failures.
‘The time for excuses is over – government must act decisively to address this crisis.’