School nurses and health visitors are crucial in early identification and prevention of child health issues, a new report by the Royal College of Child Health and Paediatrics (RCPCH said.
The State of Child Health report calls for a reversal of the public health budget cuts that have impacted on the health visiting and school nursing workforce. The report recommends that the government preserves these services to ensure better care for children and young people's health.
Cheryll Adams, the chief executive of the Institue of Health Visiting, said that as 'an absolute priority and first step, the cuts to public health budgets must be stopped'.
'The snapshot of children’s health in the UK captured in this State of Child Health report is very worrying and upsetting. As a nation, we can’t afford to not invest in our children as they are our future, yet recently their needs seem to have become invisible against the many competing demands being made on government and the NHS,' she added.
Primary care must also be strengthened to ensure there is a balance in the level of care children receive regardless of socioeconomic background, and to identify mental health issues at the earliest possible stage. One of the key actions put forward by the College is that there should also be better sharing of data between general practitioners, school nurses and parents.
'If politicians are serious about improving our nation’s health, then they have to think long-term. And that means investing in children. It has to be our ambition for the health of the UK’s children to be amongst the best in the world; anything less and we are failing current and future generations,' said Professor Russell Viner, RCPCH Officer for Health Promotion.The College also calls on each of the UK government's to develop a child health and wellbeing strategy to be evaluated and co-ordinated across the nation.
Professor Neena Modi, president of the RCPCH, said that children living in the most deprived areas are more likely to be in poor health. 'Poor health in infancy, childhood, and young adult life will ultimately mean poor adult health, and this in turn will mean a blighted life and poor economic productivity,' she added.
The report covers various aspects of child health such as poverty, child deaths, smoking in pregnancy, breastfeeding, obesity, smoking and alcohol.