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State of Child Health Scotland – One Year On

Child health in Scotland ranks among the worse in Western Europe, and the disparity between children living in the most and least affluent communities is unacceptably wide. One in four children – 210,000 – live in poverty, 28% are overweight or obese and many of the approximately 400 deaths among infants, children and young people each year are avoidable.

In January 2017, we published a report, the State of Child Health, in which we presented recommendations aimed at improving child health in the four nations of the UK. The recommendations for Scotland addressed 12 areas for improvement.

So what progress has been made? This year, 2018, is the ‘Year of Young People’ and there is heartening evidence that the child health and wellbeing agenda is moving forward. At the end of 2017 the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament, providing a positive first step towards reducing child poverty. The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on obesity, has led the way nationally by setting a minimum unit price on alcohol, and will deliver a child and adolescent health and wellbeing action plan in 2018. These developments will help Scotland become a healthier country for children.

To achieve the goal of making Scotland a healthy place in which to grow up, every politician needs to pledge their support for enabling steps that transcend short-term parliamentary cycles. Health services must be able to meet the needs of every infant, child and young person. Training in child health should be mandatory for all general practitioners. Every child with a long-term condition should have a named lead health professional. Standards should be in place to ensure better transition from child to adult services. Health and wellbeing programmes should be compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. Emphasis is also needed on basic science and clinical research, and on the development of medicines and devices for children, because without this progress will stall. Barriers to implementing guidance and adhering to national standards must be addressed.

A child perspective must be central to all Government policies because the health and wellbeing of infants, children and young people requires action across every level of society. Ultimately, healthy, happy, resilient children will drive a healthier and more prosperous future for Scotland.

Professor Neena Modi, RCPCH President
Professor Steve Turner, RCPCH Officer for Scotland