Poverty biggest 'threat' to children's health in Wales

Swing in deprived area Image copyright Getty Images

Poverty is the biggest threat to children's health in Wales, a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics has claimed.

An estimated 200,000 Welsh children live in poverty and are more likely to experience poor health, according to the report.

Dr Mair Parry, RCPCH Officer for Wales, said if robust action was not taken a "whole generation" would be failed.

The Welsh Government said it would consider the report's recommendations.

Poverty is classed as those living with a household income of less than 60% of the median (middle) figure.

Children from the most deprived fifth of the population are 70% more likely to die in childhood than those living in the most affluent parts of Wales, the report claimed.

Children's Commissioner for Wales, Prof Sally Holland, said reducing poverty rates was the "most important task" facing the Welsh Government.

The RCPCH report recommends several improvements to improve children's health and reduce child deaths.

These include measuring children for obesity throughout their childhood and stopping takeaways opening near schools and swimming pools.

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Media captionRhian Rees, Flying Start manager for Ceredigion, said the biggest challenge the programme faced was "engagement"

Dr Parry said the growing gap between rich and poor was risking children's health and the recent scrapping of the target to end child poverty by 2020 by the Welsh Government should "worry us all".

She added: "We must show real leadership to prevent illness from the very start of life and promote good health and well-being across the whole of society.

"If we don't, we will fail a whole generation in Wales."

The report recommends extending the Welsh Government's Flying Start project to allow all children living in poverty the chance to access support.

In 2014-15, 37,260 children were involved in the project, which offers part-time childcare for under-fours.

While the number of children getting help from the Flying Start programme has increased, most are "still not receiving support".

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Image caption The report states there are 'particular challenges in Wales', including 'worrying' mental health figures and over a quarter of children classed as obese

Children living in poverty are at increased risk of poor health due to a range of issues, including mothers smoking during pregnancy, a poor diet and being more likely to drink, use drugs and smoke, the report stated.

Flying Start manager for Ceredigion, Rhian Rees, said getting the "right messages" across to families was the biggest challenge.

She said: "If we want to close the gaps between the children who are in our most deprived areas and not in our most deprived areas, we have to make sure that important messages are conveyed and that sometimes takes a bit more time and resources."

Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth described the poverty rate in Wales as "disturbing".

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Our programme for government, Taking Wales Forward, includes our Healthy Child Wales programme.

"The programme will ensure that inequalities linked to poor child health are further reduced by ensuring that we deliver a universal service to all children in Wales, with additional support provided in response to identified need."

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