Political parties should make children’s health a priority ahead of next year’s Scottish election, a medic has said.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s officer for Scotland Professor, Steve Turner, spoke out on the issue after a report highlighted a rise in the number of young people dying in the country.
He said an end to child poverty as well as early intervention and improvement of services for children and young people should be on the agenda ahead of the 2021 Holyrood election.
The RCPCH has released its State of Child Health 2020 report, which assesses 28 different measures that impact on the health of children and young people including mortality rates, poverty and specific conditions such as asthma and epilepsy.
The report, which assesses the entirety of the UK with specific breakdowns for each of the four countries, paints a stark picture for Scotland, with the rate of young people dying between the age of ten and 19 rising from 19.5 per 100,000 to 24.5 when comparing figures from 2014 and the most recent available data, and the number of children dying before age nine rising from 9.3 to 9.7.
Despite the increase in adolescent and child mortality, the number of deaths in babies under one year old per 1000 live births dropped from 3.6 to 3.2, remaining the lowest in the UK.
The level of young people taking their own lives also rose sharply, with the number of people aged between 15 and 24 per 100,000 increasing from 9.8 to 15.1 – the biggest rise of any country in the UK and the second worst rate behind Northern Ireland with 17.8.
“All parties should commit to making children’s health a manifesto priority with a focus on ending child poverty and health inequalities, prioritising public health prevention and early intervention, and enhancing services for children and young people.”Professor Turner.
Prof Turner welcomed changes made in Scotland over recent years but said it was “unacceptable” there were still children living in poverty – a figure which has risen from 22% to 24% according to the report.
He said: “The 2017 State of Child Health report was a line in the sand.
“Since then there have been a number of very welcome moves in Scotland aimed at improving mental and physical health and well-being.
“We’ve seen the UN Charter for the Rights of the Child incorporated into Scottish Law, there has been the Equal Protection from Assault Bill passed in Parliament … The Scottish Government has delivered strategies on healthy weight, mental health and introduced the Best Start Grants.
“These are all good moves in the right direction and, if properly funded, could really improve the health and well-being of our children.
“However, our 2020 report highlights some painful facts which we cannot ignore.”
He added: “One in four of our children are growing up in poverty – this is unacceptable in a county like ours. Obesity rates are also on the rise.
“Urgent and bold action at national and local government levels will be required to meet the 2030 targets.
“All parties should commit to making children’s health a manifesto priority with a focus on ending child poverty and health inequalities, prioritising public health prevention and early intervention, and enhancing services for children and young people.”