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The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has launched a campaign that aims to secure policy commitments from political parties in the bid to improve the health and lives of young people.

The doctors are calling on the next government to put child health high on the political agenda, as members of the public show overwhelming support for a series of policies that could improve children’s health.


So, where was the support shown? Reducing child death rates scored 76% in the polls, reducing rates of childhood cancer (77%) and ensuring consistent health service provision for children and young people across the UK (77%) – these were the top three child health issues that the public felt should be top priorities for the government, with Britons also showing high levels of support for policies to help tackle obesity (59%) and address concerns around children’s mental health (69%).

The poll, conducted by ComRes and commissioned by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, coincides with the College’s Child Health Debate, held on Tuesday 3 March, which featured health minister Dr Dan Poulter MP, minister of state for care and support Norman Lamb MP and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham MP.

The poll of 2,118 UK adults also indicates that:

  • 64% of Britons supports a ban on advertising food high in fat, sugar and salt on TV before 9pm
  • education that furthers child health should play a greater role in schools, with nine in 10 adults saying they support the recommendation to teach children how to cook and about the nutritional value of food in schools in order to improve child health, and eight in 10 support introducing compulsory personal, social and health education (PSHE) in primary and secondary schools
  • 63% of the public backs reallocating part of the NHS budget for urgent and emergency care to the prevention of illness (such as promoting active lifestyles and healthy eating) and provision of community care services.

94% says children’s healthcare should be an important priority for the NHS (67% very important), while 94% says care of the elderly should also be an important priority (65% very important).

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said, “We often see policies hitting the headlines that are targeted at the ageing population – increased funding for dementia research and additional dementia training for NHS workers are among the pledges that have been made in recent weeks. But, while caring for our ageing population is important, it shouldn’t mean that children’s health falls to the wayside.”

Poll revelations

Public opinion was also presented in a further poll, which revealed that:

  • 69% sees improving children and young people’s mental health as a high priority
  • 77% of adults is in favour of supporting pregnant mothers to reduce risky behaviours during pregnancy, such as smoking
  • more than three in five adults (62%) say increasing the amount of money spent on research (e.g., clinical trials) to improve children and young people’s health should be a high priority
  • 58% supports reducing the national speed limit in built-up areas to 20mph to attempt to reduce deaths from road traffic accidents.

In response to the secondary poll statistics, Dr Cass said, “These are figures that are going to see little improvement if bold policies are not put in place to directly address them. What’s needed is urgent and increased investment in children’s mental health services and policies like taxation of foods high in salt, sugar and fat, compulsory PSHE lessons in all schools and heightened road safety measures such as 20mph zones – policies that are backed by the public.”

What next?

Dr Hilary Cass calls on the next government to listen to the presented facts and to also listen to the public by making child health a priority. Cass is certain this decision will make “strong moral, economic and political” sense.