Child and young people's health

The BMA has a longstanding interest in child health and the impact of social inequalities on health outcomes for children and young people.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Friday 23 October 2020
Public Health Article Illustration

We have developed a number of policies and published reports on diverse aspects of child health ranging from nutrition and obesity, through to mental health and austerity.

Worryingly, we observe that little has changed to improve outcomes since the publication of our major report on child health in 2013, and many of its findings still ring true today.

We find it unacceptable that the future health and wellbeing of a child born in the UK still remains dependent on their social position, and that we continue to lag behind many other European countries on a range of child health outcomes without good reason.


Supporting a healthy childhood

Our 2020 briefing examines recent trends in spending on and provision of services for children that keep them healthy.

A safe, supportive and happy childhood environment is widely understood to be vital for a child’s development, health and wellbeing over the short- and long-term. Conversely, an established body of evidence shows a correlation between a disruptive, adverse or chaotic childhood environment and an increased prevalence of physical and mental health problems.

Despite this established evidence base, our analysis of recent data highlights insufficient investment in England across a range of services to support a healthy childhood, with funding for a number of different services being cut in recent years. This lack of resource is likely to have an adverse impact on child health in England.

Read the briefing


Growing up in the UK 2013

Our keystone report on children and young people was published in May 2013. The report concluded that we are failing our most vulnerable children, and expressed major concerns about the effects of poverty and social inequalities on child health and wellbeing in the UK.

The authors criticised short-sighted spending cuts on health intervention projects, and argued that investing money to address the causes of inequalities is far more effective than paying for the consequences.

Recommendations in the report set out what is needed to move towards an equitable society, where all children are given the best start in life by adopting a life-course approach to child health.

Read the report


Growing up in the UK 2016

Three years on, we have undertaken a review of our 2013 report, looking at the changes that have occurred.

We asked a number of health experts to tell us what has changed since the publication of Growing up in the UK in the fields of:

  • child nutrition
  • child maltreatment
  • children and young people’s mental health
  • children with disabilities; and
  • life course development and the origins of adult disease.

While there has been some progress to address children’s health needs, there are still aspects of health and wellbeing that are worsening, particularly in the areas of child maltreatment, disability, and mental health.

The progress reports also list actions to be taken by government and within the health and social sectors towards addressing these deficiencies.

Read the report


Cutting away at our children's futures

This report examines how austerity is affecting the health of children, young people and families.

The government's wide sweeping cuts to benefits and services across the country in recent years is a major contributing factor to poor health outcomes for children and young people.

In light of this, we have produced a report focusing on the impact of austerity and welfare reforms on children, young people and families.

The cumulative result of increases in the cost of living, cuts to services and benefits are explored in the report, which finds that the effects of austerity have been more detrimental to children than to many other groups.

It highlights how these factors have contributed to increases in the number of children living in poverty, and demonstrates that the most vulnerable children continue to be some of the worst affected.

Read the report