Child health report reinforces need for action and reform here, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said a major report into child health reinforces the need for action and reform in Northern Ireland.

South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw was speaking after the release of the Child Health Report 2020 by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. It warned the UK was lagging behind other European nations in areas such as death rates, obesity and vaccination levels. She said prevention and early intervention in early years were particularly important.

“It is worth emphasising the Child Health Report 2020 provides a mixed picture, with some real hope. Since 2017, Northern Ireland has seen a decrease in child mortality and an increase in breastfeeding, and notably rates of child poverty, cancer mortality and smoking among young people are decreasing and are now the lowest in the UK.

“However, the report reinforces the urgent need for reform in Northern Ireland, not least in healthcare. Youth suicide and infant mortality were already at an unacceptably high level and in many areas are rising, and we are not doing anything like enough to encourage general physical and mental wellbeing, including through physical activity. Too many people in Northern Ireland are also in neither employment nor training.

“Young people are now entering a society where we have a two-tier health service with access to diagnostics and treatment often determined by means to pay to go private, and a public health system which is still too much about tackling problems when they arise rather than preventing them in the first place.

“Even though health is far from the only focus of the report, the value of the principles of the Bengoa plan are once again evident. Services must be aimed at reducing inequalities, taking preventative measures and catering for established local need.

“My Alliance colleagues and I will continue to push for child health to be given priority in policy and service development, including promoting physical and mental wellbeing from the earliest years.”