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Olympic fever could boost child health

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Olympics boost child health Olympics boost child health

The Olympic and Paralympic Games will leave a legacy of good health. At least, that's the plan. According to director of public health nursing Viv Bennett, now is the time for nurses to capitalise on our passion for the Games and to 'make every contact count'.

Pointing out that London 2012 coincides with '150 years of health visiting', she hopes to combine enthusiasm for the two to spark improvement in the health of children and young people. After all, while it is hoped that everyone may benefit from the Games, the focus is squarely on 'the next generation', with ministerial promises to encourage and enable more physical activity.

Conversely, it would seem the NHS is anything but focused on 'the next generation'. July's report of the Children and Young People's Health Outcomes Forum highlights shortcomings in its approach to children's care, highlighting costly failures and the lack of consistency in how school and community teams treat children and young people.

The report warns generalist doctors and nurses have insufficient training in children's care and that the QOF does not provide incentives to prioritise it. It acknowledges that 'GPs, health visitors and school nurses' are critical to the delivery of good public health, but concludes several areas are 'missing' from the outcomes framework that informs their practice, including 'physical activity'.

What a terrible waste it would be to put on a wonderful - but expensive - Games only to lose momentum, in terms of health benefits, due to poor NHS strategy and planning. The 'Olympic effect' will not last long; it must be harnessed now. The forum's report will inform the government's Children and Young People's Strategy, due 'before the end of the year'. We look forward to seeing practical solutions to highly solvable problems, to enable nurses to take the initiative in improving the health and wellbeing of young people.

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