Making a positive impact - President’s blog: 4 June 2021

Camilla discusses kinship, podcasts, listening to children and young people and finding the creative energy and ideas to tackle health inequalities.

It finally feels like summer has arrived! Many of you will be taking time off for the half term and I trust you are enjoying some well-deserved sunshine and relaxation.

The last two weeks have produced a number of opportunities to understand the impact of health inequalities better. This is a sobering topic, and it is easy to feel hopeless about how we can make a positive impact on the families we work with. Firstly, I read the excellent 2021 National Child Mortality Database Programme Thematic Report prepared to feel defeated and miserable. However, thanks to Professor Karen Luyt and her team in Bristol, the 2021 report helped me see that there are things we can all do to try and shift the depressing link between child death and deprivation. The report shows that there is a strong link between child death and ‘modifiable contributory factors’ in the most deprived communities – factors like homelessness, poor parental mental health, difficulties accessing health and social care services, and so on. This gives us an opportunity to do things to make a difference, and there is a whole chapter of examples of potential interventions which are fascinating and inspiring to read.

We have collected some powerful reflections from paediatricians around the country and also crucially listened to our young people in the RCPCH &Us network.

Secondly, we have published our State of Child Health One Year On: 2021 report. The report this year is not a formal review because it has been such tumultuous time with so many unusual trends, like schools changing to online and the healthcare workforce being diverted to other duties. Nevertheless, we have collected some powerful reflections from paediatricians around the country and also crucially listened to our young people in the RCPCH &Us network. They have talked about the impact of the pandemic, what it has felt like to live in lockdown and also their hopes for the future.

Our global child health work is a much-prized part of our child health advocacy efforts.

Finally, as with all our work at the College, our efforts are not restricted to children in the UK alone. Our global child health work is a much-prized part of our child health advocacy efforts. We’ve been raising concerns about the impact of aid cuts with the Westminster Global Health All Party Parliamentary Group and other parliamentarians. They, like us, are disturbed by the UK Government’s cut in foreign aid and we have described how this is already negatively impacting some of our important work in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Myanmar, and how the clear benefits of past investment run the risk of being lost with this short-sighted aid reduction. It seems that there could be a parliamentary debate about the cuts next week and let’s hope the message is heard by ministers. Regardless, we aren’t going to stop pressing this point home.  

I’ve discovered that there are all sorts of unexpected perks from being President! I hadn’t realised that podcast makers and artists would become my new acquaintances and how lovely that is! I spent a hilarious hour with Dr Stacey Harris and Dr Hannah Davies, two Welsh trainees who are involved making the inspiring DragonBytes Paediatric Podcast series. We talked about everything from the importance of kindness to flexibility in paediatric careers to the merits of South African wine! I won’t steal their thunder but I’m pretty confident they’ll produce a truly memorable podcast!

Within 24 hours of that meeting, I had the privilege of spending an hour with two illustrators from Creative Connection, a team of artists and designers who are skilled at visualising ideas and concepts. We talked about why I see the importance of ubuntu, or kinship, as being key to how we move into the post-COVID world and how this will also help us find the creative energy and ideas to help tackle the health inequalities that surround us. While we talked, they drew... and as you can see below the result was just wonderful!

Metavisioing drawing showing interaction and intersection of ideas in think bubbles and hand drawn images

If you are intrigued by this, please join the Born in Bradford Programme team and Dr Mathew Mathai in their workshop on social determinants of children and young people’s health at the College Conference on 16 June where there’ll be more illustrations and much else too.

Enjoy the sunshine and take care,


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