Using data to improve our communities - President's blog

This week Camilla joined a symposium with an inspiring, energised group of professionals to look at the health inequalities identified in the 'Born in Bradford' programme - so how can we spread such ideas more widely?
Camilla Kingdon

One of the greatest privileges of being in the President role at RCPCH is that I am invited to a huge variety of events and get to meet interesting people from all sorts of walks of life. This week was no exception with an invitation to attend a symposium on tackling Inequalities for our Children, organised by the Alliance for Life Chances and the Born in Bradford team. The setting was the rather magical Salts Mill in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, with its impressive legacy of philanthropy as a former cloth mill which was surrounded by houses, park, school and library all built by the mill owner, Sir Titus Salt, who saw the value of providing better living and working conditions for his workers.

Whatever one might think of Titus Salt’s motives for investing in his workforce, the symposium brought together the most inspiring and energised group of educationalists, healthcare workers, academics, mental health workers, police and local government representatives all with one goal – addressing the health inequalities that they can now accurately detect and measure using the extraordinary data derived from the huge dataset collected in the Born in Bradford programme.

Maybe these are dreams – but why shouldn’t we use the data that we all collect daily to link and allow improvements to be designed for the communities where we work?

Sitting in Salts Mill I heard a highly motivated headteacher talk about how he wants to use the data to help him direct mental health support to his most vulnerable pupils and consider how to use growth data to focus on diet and physical activity in a much more specific and bespoke way. I heard a policeman describe how awareness of adverse childhood experiences would help him and his colleagues focus on the young people most at risk of falling into crime. An Early Years specialist described the '50 Things To Do Before You’re Five' project, which is equipping parents with a whole range of ideas to improve language uptake and other cognitive skills in preparation for school – really simple things like building a sandcastle or flying a kite!

What has been achieved in Bradford is quite literally the envy of academics around the world. Scaling this up to stretch over to Leeds, though, is proving challenging, and ambitious talk about widening the work to all of Yorkshire – and even England – gave us all dreams of how we could lever real improvements for children. Maybe these are dreams – but why shouldn’t we use the data that we all collect daily to link and allow improvements to be designed for the communities where we work? My meeting in Bradford this week helped me see that all of this should be possible and I came away feeling inspired by the truly impressive achievements in Bradford, but determined to see those ideas spread far more widely.

Latest statistics on child poverty

This week saw the publication of important research from the End Child Poverty Coalition - RCPCH is a member of this coalition of charities. Child poverty was down overall in the UK in 2020/21 but is likely to be a temporary improvement related to the additional support provided to low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic via the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. This clearly shows that boosting the incomes of low-income families via cash transfers works to alleviate poverty. Wales and the North East of England have seen the largest increases in child poverty, with the North East now overtaking London in having the highest child poverty rate in the UK.

Rising child poverty in any region of the UK is not good news; we must not forget that behind every single number is a child whose health is being damaged and life chances are being cut short. We’ll continue to press governments to take urgent action. Do check out our four-nation response to the new statistics.

Global health workforce

Another really lovely invitation this week was to attend the launch of a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, Probable Futures and Radical Possibilities: an Exploration of the Future Roles of Health Workers. This is a fascinating piece of work exploring the future of health workers globally and so many of the problems chime with the issues we face in the UK, and so many of the potential solutions are the ones we either are exploring at RCPCH or need to consider.

The discussion at the launch reiterated the importance of keeping our patients at the centre of care and the crucial importance of creating career pathways that play to the aspirations and interests of the next generation – whether that is our future nursing or medical workforce.

UK politics

Back to reality – it won’t have escaped any of you that there is a fair degree of change in Westminster and we will soon have a new Prime Minister. Whatever the outcome, as a College we will continue to advocate for child health and work with all the relevant government ministers and departments. It is crucial that the momentum around the implementation of the new Health and Care Act is maintained and that we support the Integrated Care Systems as they begin their work.

We must use this opportunity to harness the potential of integration of health and social care to meet the physical and mental health needs of children and find the opportunities to work far more collaboratively with primary care and also local government.

2022 Adolescent Health Conference – book your place!

We’ve barely recovered from the outstanding 2022 RCPCH Annual Conference, and now, hot on its heels, is the 2022 Adolescent Health Conference. This year it is in Birmingham on 9 and 10 November (there is an online offer too) and I am led to believe that you miss this at your peril! A wide range of fascinating topics will be covered by plenary speakers and in workshops. [This event is now past.]

In the meantime – enjoy the sunshine – and take care,

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