GPs have a contribution to make to mitigating the effects of inequality
GPs who work in the deep end have a story to tell about children like Kirsty who are born into socio-economically disadvantaged communities.
That story basically confirms what we inherently know, that unequal health that begins in childhood has long-term consequences that will adversely affect the entire life of Kirsty’s health, education and economic potential.
The contribution that GPs make to ameliorate the impact of inequalities in early years is found in the localised knowledge that GPs gain about families.
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Understanding Kirsty’s family dynamic is the basis for continuity of holistic care during the times that children like her become vulnerable.
GPs will tell you that children can demonstrate resilience to the challenges of experiencing socio-economic deprivation.
While ultimately it is the wider family that is important to all children, having supportive friends, being loved unconditionally by at least one primary caregiver, living in networked communities, growing up in adequate housing, having unconditional access to early years education and good quality home learning and universal healthcare all contribute to a good start in life.
Unfortunately, GPs will also tell you the story of children who are ‘born to fail’.
If children experience extreme material hardship, food and housing insecurity and grow up in a household where there are additional stress factors, for example, parental mental health, addiction and disability issues, low parental employment and educational status, their future is not assured.
Persistent health and social problems that are never adequately addressed hinder their access to networked resources and reduce their life chances.
The challenge to Scottish government within the current financial climate is to progress with its extensive early years policies and ambitious stretch targets; to narrow the gap that exists between the majority and the minority; and diminish the inequity of service provision.
The GPs working at the deep end would like to positively contribute to that agenda to help all of Scotland’s Kirsties.
Dr Anne Mullin is a GP in Glasgow