In Brief

The state of British children’s health in five statistics

New study shows UK falling behind on key indicators including infant mortality and vaccinations

The health of British children is lagging behind that of their peers in other wealthy countries - and is even worsening in some of the UK’s poorest communities, according to a major new report. 

Data on 28 measures of child health - ranging from conditions such as asthma, epilepsy and mental health problems, to poverty and road accidents - was crunched by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for the State of Child Heath 2020 report. Summarising the findings, college president Russell Viner said: “It’s not a pretty sight.” 

Study co-author Dr Ronny Cheung added: “The harsh reality is that in terms of health and well-being, children born in the UK are often worse off than those born in other comparably wealthy countries.”

Here are five key findings from the research.

Infant mortality rates

Rates of infant mortality in the UK are among the highest in Europe, with 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. Of a total 25 nations listed, the only others with a higher rate of deaths among under-ones were Poland (four per 1,000) and Latvia (4.1). Finland had the lowest mortality rate, at two per 1,000.

The report says that infant mortality “has stalled in both the UK and England since 2014”, with rates in England even rising slightly to four deaths per 1,000 live births between 2016 and 2017 - an increase that “is extremely unusual and should be a cause for concern”.

Child obesity

Almost one in four (24%) UK children aged between four and five were overweight in 2018-19. In England, the prevalence of severe obesity in this age group was almost four times as high in the most deprived areas, at 3.8%, compared with the least deprived, at 1%.

And more than a third (34.3%) of children in England aged between ten and 11 were either overweight, obese or severely obese.

Vaccination

The report says there were “signs of decline” in vaccination rates between 2014 and 2018 for the six-in-one vaccination - given to babies to protect against diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, polio, tetanus and whooping cough - and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

In 2018, all four UK nations fell short of the World Health Organization’s 95% target for the second dose of MMR. England had the lowest uptake rate, at 86.40%.

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Violent crime injuries 

Stabbings and injuries with sharp objects have risen among 15- to 19-year-olds in England, from 35.3 per 100,000 in 2012 to 38.3 per 100,000 in 2018. However, rates of such violence remained largely static in Wales, and fell in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Chronic illness

The new report offers further much-needed good news when it comes to the treatment of chronic medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, revealing significant improvements in the UK. For instance, the rate of emergency admission for asthma per 100,000 children in England was down from 217 in 2003-4 to 174 in 2018.

 

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