Poverty link to wellbeing

Dr Arif Rajpura (below) says Blackpool's Better Start programme is tackling issues including child obesity
Dr Arif Rajpura (below) says Blackpool's Better Start programme is tackling issues including child obesity

A new report into childhood health underlines the extent to which Blackpool youngsters are lagging behind children in wealthier parts of the country.

The findings, revealed today by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), show 11.7 per cent of four and five year-olds in the town are obese, compared to an average of 9.5 per cent nationally, and less than seven per cent in prosperous areas such as Cheshire and Surrey.

Dr Arif Rajpura

Dr Arif Rajpura

More than 37 per cent of five year olds in Blackpool have tooth decay, compared to 25 per cent nationally – and just 10 per cent in Sussex.

Meanwhile only 54.5 per cent of reception children in the town reach a good level of development before starting school, compared to around 60 per cent nationally, and more than 70 per cent in London boroughs such as Greenwich and Lewisham.

In 2013/14, the research also shows 167 under fours from Blackpool were admitted to hospital with an injury.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB, said: “The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable.

We need to narrow the gap between health outcomes

“Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.

“We need local and national government to make the same efforts to narrow the gap in health outcomes across the country for under-fives as has been made to narrow the gap in achievement between poor and rich pupils in school.”

The issues are already being recognised in Blackpool where the £75m 10-year Better Start initiative has been launched aimed at helping families with children aged up to three years living in the town’s most deprived areas.

Funding includes £45m from the Lottery and match-funding from partners including Blackpool Council.

Dr Arif Rajpura, director of public health at Blackpool Council, said:” The report highlights some of the important challenges facing deprived areas such as Blackpool, including high levels of childhood obesity, tooth decay, injuries and school readiness. We are aware of these issues which we are tackling through our Better Start programme, and we also have the opportunity to address some of these issues when we take over responsibility for commissioning of health visiting from October this year.”