Public health cuts ‘threaten children’s health’

23 Jan 18

Continued reductions in local authorities’ public health grant is disproportionately hitting children’s services, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health.

An update to the RCPCH’s State of Child Health report issued last year, which called for a moratorium on public health funding reductions, found that councils were planning cuts to the majority of children’s services.

The RCPCH gave the government a black mark on council public health spending, which, according to analysis by the King’s Fund has fallen 5% since 2013-14 to £2.52bn in 2017-18.

The college’s report said: “While the figures show that councils are planning to spend more on some services – including on promoting physical activity and on some children’s services – most services are planned to be cut.”

It also criticised the government for failing to establish an overarching child health strategy, ban junk food advertising to children and invest more in child health research.

The RCPCH warned that around 80% of obese children remain obese into adulthood, resulting in a loss of 10-20 years of healthy life.

Its president, Neena Modi, said: “That’s a very frightening statistic and something that government must get to grips with.

“This is time for a long-term vision for the sake of the nation’s wellbeing and prosperity yet the focus remains short-term and ineffective.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Evidence shows that intervening in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can make a difference across their lifetime.

“But, with councils’ public health grant funding being cut by £531m between 2015-16 and 2019-2020 and councils facing a £2bn funding gap to children’s services by 2020, that task is being made harder.”

The LGA wants to councils to be given a say on the spending of money from the “sugar tax” – a levy on soft drinks coming into effect in April – and to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

In his 2016 autumn statement, chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that public health funding would be cut by an average of 3.9% in real terms each year to 2020.

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