Child health among the worst in Europe

Child health in Scotland is among the poorest in western Europe, according to a major study.

The State of Child Health — Scotland report estimates that 210,000 children are living in poverty, with 28 per cent overweight or obese. Of these, about 400 die each year, with a significant number of deaths potentially avoidable.

Compiled by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the report also says that almost 30 per cent of pregnant women in the most-deprived areas are smokers.

Researchers looked at 25 health rates covering asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, as well as obesity, breastfeeding and mortality, to assess health and wellbeing.

They found that Scotland led the way with high vaccination rates, few cases of tooth decay and a decline in suicide rates among young people. But they still concluded that child health in Scotland was among the poorest in comparable Europe countries.

Steve Turner, RCPCH officer for Scotland, said: “The Scottish government has repeatedly said that children are a priority and its focus on strong early years provision is heartening. 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 with 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 recommends extending the smoking ban to school grounds, sport fields and playgrounds, publicising the benefits of breastfeeding and measuring child health more regularly.

Dr Turner added: “In addition to specific actions, we want to see the Scottish government adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach.”

Aileen Campbell, the public health minister, said: “We agree that our children’s health should be a priority for all. This is why this government has committed to ensuring the best start for all our children.”

Monica Lennon, Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman, claimed that £327 million of council cuts would make the situation worse. “That after a decade of SNP government Scotland is among the poorest countries in western Europe for child health is simply appalling,” she said.

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