Helping children lead healthy lives

Helping children live healthy lives

Shocking new figures released by the UK Office for National Statistics are a reminder that there is a massive gap in healthy life expectancy and in overall life expectancy between the wealthiest and the poorest areas of England. For example, someone born in a deprived part of the country may have almost 20 fewer years of healthy life than someone born in the wealthiest part. The Covid pandemic, which affected deprived communities particularly badly, will have influenced these figures (which run to 2020), but the overall picture and trends are, depressingly, nothing new. They raise big questions about public health and social justice, of course – and there are no easy or cost-free solutions. But helping children lead healthy lives must be part of any long-term public health strategy. This means ensuring that they live healthy lives now and that they have the knowledge, knowhow and opportunity to lead healthy lives into and throughout adulthood. That is one of the aims of Life-Based Learning.

Health inequality

The recently published statistics from the ONS show that:

  • females living in the most deprived areas of England will have 19.3 fewer years of good health than females living in the least deprived areas; the equivalent figure for males is 18.6 years
  • the gap in overall life expectancy between the wealthiest and the poorest areas is 9.7 years for males and 7.9 years for females.
  • the inequality gap in life expectancy has significantly increased for both sexes in the last few years
  • females and males living in the most deprived areas of England saw a significant decrease in life expectancy between 2015 to 2017 and 2018 to 2020
  • in 2018 to 2020, females living in the most deprived areas were expected to live less than two-thirds (66.3%) of their lives in good general health, compared with more than four-fifths (82.0%) in the least deprived areas.

The recent white paper on levelling up included an ambition for the government to improve healthy life expectancy by 5 years by 2035. However, analysis by the Health Foundation previously estimated not only that it would take 75 years to reach 5 years of improvement in healthy life expectancy, based on the trend (for men) between 2009–11 and 2015–17, but also that the situation has since deteriorated – and their analysis did not include data that was skewed by the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Long-term health issues

Research published in July 2021 suggested that about one in three middle-aged people have multiple chronic health issues such as recurrent back pain, mental health problems and high blood pressure. The research showed the long-lasting links between childhood and adolescence and midlife health, and the researchers recommended action on health targeted at children and young people in order to improve the long-term health prospects for future generations.

Healthy lives and Life-Based Learning

We highlighted the 2021 research and the recommendation about action on health targeted at children and young people in our blog Improving midlife health requires us to start early. Such thinking resonates with the aims of Life-Based Learning ­– an approach to education and development for children and young people in which the life challenges that we all face, now and in the future, become the focus of a fully rounded, life-based approach to learning. Its focus on Self priorities children’s physical and mental wellbeing. This includes opportunities for regular sport and physical activity, and an emphasis on food education and healthy eating.

The next blog in this short series will examine recent figures on levels of activity and inactivity in the population.

Read More about Physical Health

Image at the head of this article by Astrid Pereira from Pixabay.

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