Research has shown that the growing gap between rich and poor is causing the deaths of thousands of children in Britain.
The lack of targeted health policies, combined with this growing wealth gap has allowed Britain to lag behind other countries in Western Europe. This is according to a study done by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).
It is estimated that 2000 more children, equal to five each day, die each year in the UK, compared to Sweden which is the best performing country in Western Europe.
During 2012, more than 3000 babies died before they reached the age of one. During the same period more than 2000 children and young people between the ages of one and 19 died. Falling into the disadvantaged sector of the population was a huge factor in these preventable deaths, particularly among the new babies and young people who had committed suicide.
The study states that the child mortality rates in the UK may be helped by the withdrawal of the welfare spending cap, the introduction of a national database of child mortality, alcohol pricing and speed limits in urban areas.
The lead author of this report, Dr Ingrid Wolfe, a child public health expert, said that economic and social inequalities can mean life or death for children. She stated that countries that spend more on social protection do not have such high child mortality rates. The bottom line is that poverty kills children and equity saves lives.
In excess of 50% of childhood deaths happen during a child’s first year of life. These figures are affected by low birth weights and premature births. The age of the mother, disadvantaged circumstances and smoking all contribute to the risk factors.
Once a child has reached the age of one, the most frequent cause of death is injury. Three quarters of these deaths are related to road accidents. The main cause of death of young people is suicide. The number of suicides has not decreased at all for the last three decades.
The shadow Public Health Minister, Luciana Berger, said that the report indicates that the poorest families are more likely to be affected by preventable child deaths. She said that this is not only a tragedy, but an appalling fact that should not be happening in a civilised country.
She stated that the Government is currently moving away from the solutions offered by this report. David Cameron has chosen to shelve plans to implement a minimum alcohol price, failed to employ the new midwives he had promised and has reduced the support for services to help people quit smoking.
The Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter, said that they have invested huge amounts in mental health support for youth. He said that they recognise that much more should be done, but their ambition is to remove health inequalities.
Image Credit: Ed Bierman