In 2018 the RCPCH responded to the London Assembly Health Committee call for evidence on healthy early years. While the RCPCH welcomes this increased focused and scrutiny on the early years, it is important to also recognise the need for a life course approach as there are many opportunities throughout a child and young person’s life to promote health and intervene where required.
- We highlighted three key health challenges for children under 5 years in London, these are: poverty and inequality, childhood obesity and maternal health. All of these factors have a lasting and profound impact on the long term health of children and young people, and therefore are key aspects to tackle.
- We highlighted the evidence set out in the RCPCH and Royal College of Physicians' joint report on air quality, including the potential long term health effects on children, such as asthma, growth and development issues and the potential effects on intelligence.
- We highlighted the crucial role of midwifery and health visiting services play in supporting new parents, including support on safe-sleeping, mental health and breastfeeding. A reduction in public health budgets has seen a reduction in the number of health visitors, and increased workload, this is particularly true in London and needs urgent attention.
- Attention needs to be paid to low rates of breastfeeding and the currently patchy support for mothers who do want to breast feed.
- Good oral health is essential for children’s overall health and wellbeing. Despite tooth decay being almost entirely preventable, 31 to 41% of five-year old children across the UK have evidence of tooth decay, with rates higher for those in deprived populations. Tooth decay is also the most common single reason why children aged five to nine require admission to hospital
- Ensure universal early years’ public health services are prioritised and supported, with targeted help for children and families experiencing poverty. Including protecting and supporting health promotion and early intervention services such as universal midwifery and health visiting services for new mothers, and expanding provision of targeted support for younger mothers.
- Ensure preservation of universal midwifery and health visiting services to all mothers. Healthy infant nutrition should be taught as part of statutory personal health and social education in secondary schools.
- All maternity services should be supported to achieve and maintain UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation. All services should provide antenatal education and health promotion regarding breastfeeding to both parents.
- The RCPCH is calling for a range of measures to improve children’s oral health including the fluoridation of public water supplies, an effective public health measure which is also proven to reduce health inequalities.
- While we acknowledge the Mayor of London has introduced a range of measures to reduce air pollution, including the introduction of Ultra Low Emission Zones we recommend these need to continue to be robustly evaluated and strengthened in order to see meaningful improvements in air quality and associated health outcomes for children.
We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: firstname.lastname@example.org.