Child health in Scotland 'amongst the poorest in western Europe'
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report contains stark warning for Scotland on child health and inequality
Child poverty - Fotolia
Inequality has led to child health figures being among the worst in Europe, according to a new report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
A "significant" number of 400 child deaths a year are avoidable, it said.
The 210,000 children who live in poverty in Scotland are far more likely to be obese, not be breastfed and have parents who smoke.
Twenty seven per cent of all children in Scotland are overweight or obese.
While Scotland has led in vaccinations, child dental health and tackling suicide, the report said, progress on obesity has been "minimal".
The report makes a number of recommendations, including measuring child health rates more regularly and adopting a ‘child health in all policies’ approach to decision making.
Dr Steve Turner, RCPCH officer for Scotland, said: "The Scottish government has repeatedly said that children are a priority, and its focus on strong early years provision is heartening.
"But there are significant gaps and the problem of health inequalities is continuing to grow.
"It is startling that over 29 per cent of pregnant women in the most deprived areas are smokers, compared to just 4.5 per cent in the least deprived, putting babies at risk of complications during pregnancy and birth and increasing the likelihood of cot death or still birth.
"Before a child is even born they are set on a path to ill health. This simply cannot be allowed to continue."
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: "We agree that our children's health should be a priority for all. This is why this government has committed to ensuring the best start for all our children.
"The State of Child Health report recommendations provide focus to develop this further; including delivering on our Programme for Government a commitment to produce a child health and wellbeing strategy.
"We look forward to working with RCPCH to take this forward to improve all children's health over the next 10 years and beyond."
Opposition parties said the report reflected badly on the SNP. Labour inequalites spokesperson Monica Lennon called the findings "simply appalling".
“This report highlights the failings of the SNPs decade in power to halt the impact deprivation has on a raft of health and wellbeing issues from smoking to breastfeeding," she said.
Scottish Conservative public and mental health spokesman Miles Briggs said:“The truth of the matter is that the SNP has been in charge for ten years now and these hugely concerning findings lie firmly at the Nationalists’ door.”
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