British children’s health is at risk due to high rates of child mortality, obesity, diabetes and mental health issues, according to a new report. 

UK child health and wellbeing rates, while higher than the United States, are among the lowest in Europe, according to the State of Child Health report, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. 

The findings also point to stark inequalities in child health linked to poverty, with children in deprived areas much more likely to be in poor health and die earlier. The government says it is investing £16 billion in public health services to tackle these inequalities. 

The report examined 25 health measures - including specific conditions such as diabetes, asthma and epilepsy, as well as risk factors such as obesity and low rates of breastfeeding - to gain insight into children’s health and wellbeing. It found progress made during the past 100 years has slowed since the 1990s. 

Among its key findings: 

  • The UK ranks 15 of 19 Western European countries on infant (under one year old) mortality and has one of the highest rates of deaths of children and young people in Western Europe. Links between deprivation and higher infant mortality were found. 
  • More than one in five children in the first year of primary school are overweight or obese in England, Scotland and Wales. Improvements in the last decade have been minimal, despite obesity increasing the risk of developing serious illnesses, including type 2 diabetes and cancer.

“The findings of this report are deeply concerning but, I hope, will finally push the government to rethink its approach to NHS spending,” said Madeleine Pinschof, a senior medical negligence solicitor at Thompsons. 

“Cuts to our health services in England, that this report has found to be disproportionately affecting children, must be reversed. Our children deserve better. 

“When Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS in 1948 he did so with a vision of bringing good healthcare to all based on need, not economic status. Today that vision looks to be in jeopardy. The number of preventable deaths in the UK in general is appalling.”