Poor beginnings: health inequalities among young children across England

Simply by growing up in a certain part of England a child under five is more likely to have poor health that will impact the rest of their lives

The first five years of a child's life are critical to their future development. Poor Beginnings: Health Inequalities among young children across England, published by the National Children's Bureau, is based on official data published by Public Health England. It looks at four key measures of young children's health and well-being - obesity, tooth decay, accidental injury and 'school readiness'. The report provides a clear picture of the health of children under five years old living in England and shows how growing up in different areas of the country has a dramatic effect on their lives, and can have an impact on the likelihood of experiencing a poor health outcome before starting school.

Thousands of children are affected by obesity, tooth decay and accidental injury and do not develop well before starting school. However, a child's chances of experiencing one of these poor outcomes depends a great deal on where they grow up.

  • There are startling variations in young children's outcomes at regional and local authority level. For example, a five-year-old in Leicester is over five times more likely to suffer from tooth decay than one of their peers in West Sussex, and if the North West had the same outcomes as the South East it would have around 5,500 more children achieving a good level of development by the end of Reception.
  • Young children growing up in deprived areas tend to do worse than those living in less deprived areas. If all local authorities had similar outcomes to the most affluent areas, we could avoid tens of thousands of incidents of early childhood obesity, tooth decay and injury.
  • However, significantly, it is not inevitable that children in poor areas fare worse than those in more prosperous areas. There are a number of very deprived local authorities where young children are doing as well as, or better than, the national average.

The area summaries document allows you to explore in more depth the stories of deprived areas where young children's health and development is as good as, or better than, the national average.


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