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Health professionals call for measures to reduce child casualties

Wednesday 7th May 2014

A new report calls for a series of measures to reduce UK’s ‘tragic’ child mortality rates, including reducing the national speed limit in built up areas to 20mph and introducing graduated licensing schemes.

The report, Why Children Die, has been published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

The two road safety related recommendations are among a myriad of others including the withdrawal of the welfare spending cap, a national database on child mortality and minimum unit alcohol pricing.

The report says that UK children are at a higher risk of premature death than their Western European counterparts “due to the growing gap between rich and poor and a lack of targeted public health policies to reduce child deaths”. It says that every year, an estimated 2,000 additional children die in the UK compared to the best performing country, Sweden.

The report suggests that many child deaths could be prevented through a combination of “societal changes, political engagement and improved training for children’s healthcare professionals”.

It found that over three quarters of deaths due to injury in the age bracket of 10-18 year olds are related to traffic incidents.

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the RCPCH, said: “It’s time that political parties of all colours took health inequalities seriously. At the moment, policies to reduce child mortality are too piecemeal, not targeted and fail to address the underlying causes.”

Dr Ingrid Wolfe, lead author of the report, said: “Social and economic inequalities are matters of life and death for children. Countries that spend more on social protection have lower child mortality rates. The messages are stark and crucial. Poverty kills children. Equity saves lives. Social protection is life-saving medicine for the population.”

RCPCH and NCB make specific recommendations on some of the most preventable causes of death highlighted in Why Children Die. These include “measures to create healthy, safe communities and environments”, including reducing the national speed limit in built up areas to 20mph and introducing graduated licensing schemes for novice drivers of all ages.

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Besides the developing concensus within public health of the need to create a calmer and more liveable public realm through adopting lower speeds where people live, work and shop, there is increasing evidence that children have underdeveloped cognitive skills to protect themselves on the roads.

A recent report from UCL highlights the fact that children are more prone to "looking but not seeing". http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0514/010514-Watch-out-children
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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