Premature death is the British way

A CHILD born today in the United Kingdom faces a higher risk of succumbing to death and disease before attaining old age than one born almost anywhere else in Europe, doctors' leaders said yesterday.

Britain ranks 18th in a league table of deaths in early childhood, behind countries that include Slovenia and Singapore as well as France and Germany. Its death rate of seven per 1,000 births under five, most from accidents, is 75 per cent higher than the Scandinavian rate.

The disadvantages of a British parentage begin before birth and extend into old age. More than one in 14 babies weighs less than 2.5kg, a rate matched only by Albania.

Britain has the highest incidence of low birth weight in the European Union, which is linked with a greater risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure in adult life.

The British Medical Association, which published the study, Growing up in Britain,urged the Government to establish an independent commissioner to tackle Britain's poor record on child health.

James Appleyard, chairman of the working party that produced the report, said children in Britain had historically been neglected by policy-makers, and inequalities at birth cast a shadow throughout life, which could be averted only by intervening early.

"We like to think of ourselves as a child-friendly society but the facts do not support that ... Why are we below countries like Slovenia and why, over 20 years, has the gap been widening between rich and poor?

"Children in Social Class V are four times more likely to die in an accident than those in Social Class I and have nearly twice the rate of long-standing illness. We are programmed from that early age for a lifetime of problems. Old age is too late to deal with old age. We have got to start with babies to secure our future health."

Poor nutrition was a key factor and British children lost out from birth. Breast milk was best for the new-born but only two-thirds of mothers breast- feed, compared with 95 per cent in Nordic countries. Many were weaned on to sweet and salty foods, which led them to shun fruit and vegetables later. Poor nutrition early in life had been linked with worse mental performance later.

Vivienne Nathanson, head of health policy and research at the BMA, said supermarkets were doing too little to promote healthy food such as fruit and vegetables. "Families buy food they know their children will like because it is not wasted. Advertisements for food are often directed at children and we want supermarkets to think about encouraging them to eat things that are good for their health."

The report says the first five years of life are crucial to children's mental and physical development. It charts the growing health gap between the children of the rich and poor and echoes the message of last year's Acheson inquiry into health inequalities - commissioned by the Government from the former chief medical officer Sir Donald Acheson - of the need to tackle the root causes of inequality. The Government is to publish its response to the Acheson report with a White Paper on public health next month.

Peter Dangerfield, deputy chairman of the BMA's board of science and education, said: "If you can influence what happens in childhood, you influence the health of the adults [they become] and their children and that must be good for the country."

Childhood

Death Rates

1= Sweden 4

1= Singapore 4

1= Finland 4

4= Switzerland 5

4= Spain 5

4= Iceland 5

7= Slovenia 6

7= Norway 6

7= Netherlands 6

7= Monaco 6

7= Japan 6

7= Germany 6

7= France 6

7= Denmark 6

7= Austria 6

7= Australia 6

7= Andorra 6

18= UK 7

18= Ireland 7

18= New Zealand 7

29= US 8

43= Chile 13

99= Philippines 38

109= Turkey 47

146= India 111

159= Pakistan 136

191= Niger 320

Source: Unicef

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment