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Poverty and children’s health: views from the frontline

According to the latest official data, 4 million children - or 3 in 10 - in the UK live in poverty after housing costs (or 2.7 million or one in five before housing costs).1 Projections indicate that this number may rise to as much as 5 million by the end of the decade,2 yet national targets to reduce child poverty have been abolished.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) State of Child Health report, published in January 2017, found that the wide gap between rich and poor in the UK is damaging the health of the nation’s infants, children and young people, with those from the most deprived backgrounds experiencing much worse health compared with the most affluent.

This evidence corroborates the concerns frequently expressed by RCPCH members over the past few years. Paediatricians have anecdotally reported increasing incidences of health issues such as obesity and respiratory illness among children living in deprived areas.

In 2013, it was estimated that child poverty costs the country £1.5billion/year through the increased need for acute healthcare (Hirsch, 2013).
The RCPCH and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) wanted to explore this further and gain the views of the RCPCH’s wider membership in order to form a picture of what is happening on the frontline for child health in communities across the UK.