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16 December 2021

The Physical Health Report

The second of four reports created for the Children's Alliance on the state of children's health and wellbeing in the UK today, focusing on physical health

‘Physical Health’ is a comprehensive study of children’s physical health during the time of Covid-19. It features the work of 37 nationally-renowned specialists in children’s health, and it is published during the ‘festive season’ when children are traditionally bombarded by advertised food and drink ‘treats’ – to be succeeded by yet more ineffective measures narrowly focussed on ‘fighting the flab’ by calorie counting and step counting.

Without effective co-ordinated measures led by Government, we run the risk that the next generation of UK adults will be the least healthy in living memory.’ The authors maintain that good physical health is an entitlement for all children and young people. A new Cabinet Minister for Children would make that a focus in ALL Government Departments.

‘Physical Health’ shows that some groups of children and young people begin life hampered by disadvantage due to their family grouping, geographical, cultural or socioeconomic circumstances. Proposals include:

  • Preconception health strategy to be fully integrated into primary healthcare (including practitioner initial and ongoing training) and raised in routine discussion during visits to a range of clinicians such as GPs, pharmacists, nurses, dietitians and sexual health services; preconception health to be a statutory national school curriculum requirement
  • A ‘family first’ as opposed to ‘children’s diet’ approach to be advocated by health and childcare professionals
  • Re-positioning strategy to promote and encourage lifelong physical activity so that it is not presented solely/predominantly through a medical or ‘deficit’ lens
  • A ‘gendered all policy areas’ approach to physical activity; gender analysis and public reporting required of how budgetary allocations of public money and national lottery funding affect physical activity opportunities for girls, boys, women and men; all media to proactively increase coverage of women’s sport; providing girls with role models and the incorporation of equitable learning experiences accommodating the values, motivation and aspirations of all girls into programmes designed to develop physical literacy and fundamental movement skills of young people
  • Regular measurement of food insecurity; research and funding into good models of holiday provision. More data to be provided on the dietary health challenges that have manifested recently for British families experiencing food insecurity
  • Review and re-set the benefits system, enabling swift and appropriate responses to food insecurity
    Place race alongside poverty in discussions about inequality and disparity
  • Equip Local Government agencies to identify and intervene where necessary in settings where children have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) of any sort; involving the voluntary and community sector in provision of safe, supportive environments for children and young people
  • A National Play Strategy for England with play included in Ofsted Inspection
  • National and Local Government cross-departmental policy to address children’s health: a ‘Health in All Policies approach.

To read the full report, click here.

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