An opportunity to advocate for reducing child health inequalities

Dr Rakhee Shah is an ST6 Community Paediatric Registrar and was Clinical Advisor for the State of Child Health 2020 report. We hear why she got involved and the experience she had working on the report. She also encourages others to believe in themselves and not allow imposter syndrome hinder them from applying for roles in the College.
Dr Rakhee Shah

Witnessing first hand how children living in the poorest areas have worse outcomes compared to children living in the richest areas through my paediatric training has fuelled my passion to influence child health policy at a national level. I am passionate about using data to highlight the health inequalities that children and young people in the UK face and to use this data to try and make evidence-based policy recommendations. So, when the opportunity for ‘Clinical Lead’ was advertised for the RCPCH’s State of Child Health 2020 report, my first thought was, “what a fantastic opportunity to advocate for reducing child health inequalities at a national level”, and my second thought was, “I’m never going to get such a senior role as a paediatric registrar!” The State of Child Health (SOCH) report is the RCPCH’s landmark report looking into child health outcomes and trends across the UK, which was first published in 2017.  

One of my mentors suggested I apply for the role and after much consideration I did submit my application. I went for the interview (singing ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman to help boost my confidence). I subsequently received a call saying that I hadn’t got the position of Clinical Lead, but because of my experience and passion for child health policy, the College asked me whether I would like to be a ‘Clinical Advisor’ for State of Child 2020. I was thrilled with the offer and accepted the position.  

To all the trainees who have had similar thoughts when seeing College roles being advertised, I encourage you to believe in yourself, overcome the imposter syndrome and apply

Women, and in particular women from BAME backgrounds are more likely to experience imposter syndrome. To all the trainees who have had similar thoughts when seeing College roles being advertised, I encourage you to believe in yourself, overcome the imposter syndrome and apply - you never know what lies ahead when you show a bit of enthusiasm! Secondly to all the mentors, supervisors and colleagues out there, be aware of this differential experience of imposter syndrome and encourage your trainees/colleagues to apply for College roles. I certainly wouldn’t have applied unless my mentor had provided me with a gentle nudge.

My role as a Clinical Adviser for the State of Child Health 2020 project was varied and it involved working as part of a fantastic team consisting of people from different backgrounds at RCPCH, including members of the Policy team, Children and Young People Engagement team and Communications team. As part of a team I was able to use my clinical experience and previous policy experience to select health indicators for the report, draft chapters, suggest policy recommendations and help communicate key messages from the report for a wide audience. I was pregnant while working on the report and I would like to thank the project team, Ronny and Rachael, and the Communications team for going out of their way for making me feel involved (as much as was possible!) during the launch, which was around my due date.

I received immense job satisfaction to see that the State of Child Health 2020 had a large impact in the media

I received immense job satisfaction to see that the State of Child Health 2020 had a large impact in the media but also has been cited in various policy documents. The report has provided a baseline for child health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be vital to measure the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the child health in the longer term and I hope to continue to be part of this important and influential work.

I would like to end with a quote from Marian Wright Edelman “You can’t be what you can’t see”, and I therefore would strongly encourage more female doctors, and doctors from BAME backgrounds to volunteer for RCPCH not only to act as role models but because it can be very rewarding and open several other doors!

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