Worsening health among the under-fives in the UK needs to be urgently addressed, experts say.
Teeth Team has been following a stark report released this week by the Academy of Medical Sciences which highlights “major health issues” including infant deaths, obesity, and tooth decay.
The report says society is betraying children and the problems are limiting their future and is calling on policymakers to take urgent action to address the situation. It warns Government that major health issues like infant mortality, obesity and tooth decay are not only damaging the nation’s youngest citizens and their future, but also its economic prosperity, with the cost of inaction estimated to be at least £16 billion a year.
The academy, which represents medical scientists and health researchers in the UK, pointed out that progress on child health had stalled in recent years. It says the pandemic and increased cost of living are to blame – and had proved particularly damaging to those living in more deprived areas.
The report says one in four children are affected by tooth decay by the age of five and calls for a cross-government vision to be developed to tackle the problems and increase investment in the child health workforce.
Report author Prof Helen Minnis said: “Every child has the right to a safe and healthy childhood. It is shameful that the UK is failing to provide this. The science is clear – we are betraying our children. Unless the health of babies and young children is urgently prioritised, we condemn many to a life of poorer health and lost potential. The time to act is now.”
Fellow author Prof Sir Andrew Pollard said there had been an “appalling decline in the health or our children” which was creating a “bleak outlook for their future”. He added: “It is time for big thinking and clear strategy by government to protect the health and life chances of our children and transform the future of our nation.”
While stressing that no single age period determines health outcomes, the report presents robust data showing that frontloading investment in the earliest years, including preconception and during pregnancy, delivers lifelong benefits by establishing healthy foundations to reduce the risk of complex health issues. Early childhood is a cost-effective time to intervene compared to opportunities later in life.
Chris Groombridge, Chair of the Teeth Team charity, said: “We have always been clear at Teeth Team that the early years of a child’s life are vital for their development – and oral health is an important part of that. This report strengthens evidence that investment in these younger years leads to huge lifelong benefits to children as well as economic benefits to wider society. We all need to collectively act on this evidence to reverse already worrying declines in children’s oral health as well as general health outcomes.”
For more information about the work Teeth Team is doing to help try and redress the balance visit www.teethteam.org.uk.