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Under 5s 'should get free vitamins'

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
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24th October 2014 - Free vitamins may be offered to all under 5s in England after a new report from the Chief Medical Officer raising serious concerns about child health.

Professor Dame Sally Davies wants a review of the cost-effectiveness of extending the Healthy Start vitamins programme to every child. These include vitamins A, C and D which are important for growth, vision, healthy skin and strong bones.

The recommendations are made in a report called Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays.

Vitamin D

Around 12% of people have vitamin D deficiency and up to 40% of children have vitamin D levels below guideline levels.

The report points out that in Birmingham, offering vitamin D to every child has halved the number of cases of the bone condition rickets.

Professor Dame Sally Davies says in a statement: "This report questions whether we have got the balance right in our society and should act as a wake-up call. The evidence is crystal clear and the opportunity is huge - investing in children is a certain way of improving the economic health of our nation, as well as our children’s well-being."

The main way our bodies get vitamin D is from being outside getting safe exposure to the summer sun. The report says there's been a decline in the number of children allowed to play outside. This lack of free play is often down to parents or children's safety concerns or a lack of local green space.

Obesity

The report says spending money to tackle poor health early in life will save the NHS money in years to come.

Obesity affects 12.5% per cent of toddlers and 16-17% of boys and girls up to the age of 15.

Reducing obesity in children and young people by 1% has been estimated to save the NHS £1 billion a year in avoiding treatment for long-term health problems, such as diabetes.

The report recommends that local authorities and schools develop new approaches to widening access to their sports facilities to allow children and young people to exercise more easily.

Healthy eating initiatives are also encouraged.

Preventable deaths

The report finds that there are 5 more child deaths a day in UK compared to Sweden.

Reacting to the report in a statement, Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says: "We know that the UK lags behind much of Europe when it comes to child mortality rates and that there is too much variation in care of some common conditions such as asthma and diabetes. We’re also faced with 1 in 3 children aged 9 who are overweight or obese and storing up health problems for the future, and increasing numbers of children suffering from poor mental health."

Also reacting to the report, Dr Hilary Emery, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau says: "It is unacceptable that five more children die each day of avoidable causes than in Sweden. The UK must have greater expectations for children’s health if we are to be the best place in the world for children to grow up. As a nation we must be much more ambitious about giving every child the best start in life and this should be a priority for all decision makers in central and local government."

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