“UK is lagging behind” – RCPCH responds to Nuffield Trust report

The Nuffield Trust and the Association for Young People's Health have today published the first ever international comparison of young people's health measures over time, comparing the UK to 18 other high-income countries. Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH, responds.

According to the findings, young people in the UK are making healthier life choices for themselves than before, but are more likely to die from asthma or have a poor quality of life from long term conditions compared to counterparts in other high income countries.

The report is based on analysis of 17 measures of the health and wellbeing of young people aged 10-24, between the mid 1990s and the last year for which data is comparable. The report finds that the UK sits in the bottom third of the comparative countries in nine out of 17 indicators, and in the top third for just three. In four of the indicators, trends have been getting worse over time, while in five, previous improvements have now stalled.

In response to today’s report, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

This report highlights yet again how far the UK is lagging behind other countries on a range of health measures, and provides further evidence of the urgent need to prioritise and invest in young people’s health. It is unacceptable that teenagers in the UK are more likely to be obese, die from asthma and live with challenging long term conditions than their peers living elsewhere, and immediate steps need to be taken to address this.

The emphasis on children and young people's health within the NHS Long Term Plan provides a welcome platform from which to make significant inroads, but unless the Government reverses cuts to public health budgets and addresses ongoing socio-economic inequalities, the UK has little chance of catching up with its European neighbours any time soon.