Kiran Iqbal, a Young NCB member aged 18 from Rochdale, gets to grips with health inequalities.
For decades, England has seen a large divide between the north and the south of the country in almost every aspect, whether it is regarding poverty, education, economics, employment or the quality of one’s life. However, this divide is particularly in evidence for health.
In Rochdale, which is the country’s 23 most deprived area in England, many young children are affected by poor health outcomes:
- Nearly one in ten 4-5 year olds are obese
- Nearly 30% of these young children have tooth decay and
- Half of all children in Rochdale fail to achieve a good level of development by the time that they leave reception.
I believe that it is completely unfair and unacceptable that a child is disadvantaged from such an early stage in their life simply because of where they live. These issues are limiting children from achieving their potential and are having devastating effects which reach into every part of a child’s life, not just their health.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem. Obese children are more likely to develop asthma, diabetes and emotional and behaviour problems both during childhood and later in life.
We know that there is a strong link between low income and childhood obesity – children from poorer areas are almost twice as likely to be obese as those from more wealthy areas and research on this has found that it is likely to be because ‘healthy’ food such as fresh fruit and veg is generally more expensive than junk.
Many young people and adults that I know admit that they would eat healthier if a salad cost the same as a burger.
The story is similar for tooth decay: a third of five-year olds in my region have tooth decay. I know a girl from a low-income family who has bad tooth decay and because of this she has had problems with her speech for most of her life and struggles to communicate with other people.This shows that even if the problem seems trivial it can have adverse effects for a young person’s future.
If young children in the North West had the same health and development outcomes as children in the South East, every year we would have:
- Over 1,500 fewer obese 4-5 year old’s
- Around 11,000 fewer 5 year olds with tooth decay
- And over 5,000 more children achieving a good level of development at the end of Reception
This is unacceptable especially for a country as Britain which is ranked as having the 14th best healthcare system in Europe, and the 18th best system in the World.
It is time for the government, and local authorities, to take note of the findings in this report and take action in resolving these issue of inequality, especially for children, regardless of where they come from.
Poor Beginnings is available from here