“We owe it to children to help bring that spark back.” – Hannah Davies, Executive Director

18 May 2023

“We owe it to children to help bring that spark back.” – Hannah Davies, Executive Director

Health Equity North Executive Director Hannah Davies reflects on a week which saw Health Equity North involved in high profile debate and discussion around child health and poverty with NHS leaders and policymakers. 

This week has been particularly busy for the Health Equity North team. 

“On Tuesday I chaired a number of roundtable discussions on childhood obesity at the Health Service Journal Reducing Health Inequalities Forum. It was a thought-provoking day, and excellent to see the focus on tackling inequity in health outcomes and a greater understanding of the need to address the social determinants of health across the attendees of NHS CEOs, public health practitioners, ICB board members and industry. 

Our roundtable discussions focused on what could be done to prevent childhood obesity – recognising that deprivation and obesity unremittingly go hand in hand. Evidence shows that childhood obesity is strongly associated with socioeconomic deprivation – and children from the most deprived areas in England are more than twice as likely to be living with obesity as those from the least deprived areas*.

Interventions should begin pre-birth with parental education. A family-centric approach is needed – children cannot be helped without engaging the whole family. Breakfast clubs and universal free school meals are simple and long-term cost-effective interventions. 

What came through most strongly is that children cannot be an afterthought when it comes to tackling obesity, and child poverty is the biggest indicator of lifelong health. Powers for local government are needed (for example to limit takeaway outlets near schools and billboard advertising) and a long-term central government obesity strategy that puts children at its heart. 

On Wednesday our second evidence session for our Child of the North APPG was held in Parliament. Our APPG group sees a committed group of MPs and members of the House of Lords who are working to ensure a fair, equitable future for children in the region. 

Professor David Taylor-Robinson gave evidence on highly inequitable funding regimes that have disproportionately affected children in the most deprived regions with inevitable knock-on effects in attainment. Professor Mark Mon-Williams and Dr Megan Wood spoke of the huge impact of COVID-19 and the great work being done in Bradford using data to tackle educational inequalities. 

But the most powerful words came from teacher James Lauder of Dixons Trinity Academy in Bradford and pupil Maryam who spoke of their personal experiences dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic on pupils’ mental health and attainment. 

As Maryam said: “Children who ahead of the pandemic were outgoing, when they came back you could see that they’d lost that spark.” 

We owe it to our children to help bring that spark back. Our report on the Child of the North educational inequalities session will be published later this year.” 

 *i https://www.healthequitynorth.co.uk/app/uploads/Child-of-the-North-Report-FINAL-1.pdf 

Child of the North APPG group

National Institute for Health and Care Research north west National Institute for Health and Care Research north east National Institute for Health and Care Research manchester National Institute for Health and Care Research yorkshire