Children 'disadvantaged' by public health cuts, say doctors

Youngsters are being "disadvantaged most" by cuts to public health services, leading children's doctors have said.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said there had been "destructive" reductions in preventive services.

A year on from its State of Child Health report, the RCPCH has examined how officials have attempted to tackle some of the issues facing child health and wellbeing.

While the Government has taken some steps - including introducing the sugar tax on soft drinks and making sex and relationship education mandatory in all schools in England - the authors conclude that the health and wellbeing of youngsters across England remains "largely unchanged".

They wrote: "Children deserve better. It is they who are disadvantaged most by inefficient health services, cuts to public health and the rising tide of poverty."

The report draws on data from King's Fund analysis which says that councils will spend only £2.52 billion on public health services in 2017/18 compared with £2.60 billion the previous year.

"We need parity of esteem between acute and preventive healthcare, said Professor Neena Modi, president of the RCPCH.

"It is no good only throwing money at treating established problems; there must be far better investment in prevention, which will reap immeasurable long term benefits. This means much bolder public health policies and a reversal of the current destructive cuts to preventive services."

The RCPCH also said that England was falling behind Scotland and Wales where officials were "making greater strides in enacting policies to improve child health".

Commenting on the report, Caroline Cerny, the Obesity Health Alliance lead, said: "The number of children with an unhealthy weight is at an all-time high and rising, but there is a huge gap in the Government's approach to tackling childhood obesity.

"To improve children's health in the future, we must take strong action today, starting with a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV."

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, added: "This report is a stark reminder that there are over two million children with health-related vulnerabilities being let down by an underfunded and overstretched health system."

A Government spokesman said: "There is always more to do, but we have world-leading plans in place to safeguard child health by combatting obesity, improving mental health and vaccinating against some of the world's deadliest diseases.

"In the past year, both teen pregnancy and child mortality have fallen to all-time lows, and our soft drinks levy is already funding additional breakfast clubs and sports."

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