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Politics

Brexit risks stalling child health improvements, new report warns

Paediatricians also offer warnings over child poverty and cuts to public health services

Uncertainties around Brexit are threatening to undermine progress being made on improving child health in the UK, paediatricians have warned.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s State of Child Health: Two Years On looks at the progress against recommendations they made in its State of Child Health report in 2017, which revealed alarming health inequalities between the UK’s most disadvantaged children and young people and their more affluent peers.

The new report reveals achievements in key areas and “a more positive picture for infants, children and young people”, but also highlights major risks including child poverty and cuts to public health services.

Developments in 2018 that were welcomed by the report include the Long-Term Plan For The NHS, which includes the establishment of a Children and Young People’s Transformation Programme, the establishment of a mental health prevalence study for young people, the roll out of mental health education in schools and proposals to tackle irresponsible advertising and promotions of unhealthy food and drink.

However, regarding Brexit, the report also states: “The UK’s exit from the EU raises concerns about ongoing access to important EU funding for child health and potential detrimental impact with respect to access to medicines and other forms of treatment. Investment into child health research must be prioritised to progress the science of paediatrics.

“Universal early years services continue to bear the brunt of cuts to public health services, leaving many of our most vulnerable without access to critical children’s health services.”

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The report also criticises the government’s lack of progress regarding reducing child poverty and inequality, pointing out that UK infant mortality rates have stalled after a century of improvement, and suggesting “a catastrophic picture by 2030 if this stall is not reversed”.

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