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Second report calling for action to improve children and young people’s health and wellbeing

Published: 16 December 2021
child food

University of Southampton researchers have joined a call for the appointment of a Cabinet Minister for Children as a new report urges the Government to build a healthier course for our future adult generation who will inherit the post-pandemic world.

The Physical Health of Children and Young People report is the second of four reports setting out a practical plan for action to reverse the serious decline in health and wellbeing of children and young people.

The report shows that some groups of children and young people begin life hampered by disadvantage due to their family grouping, geographical, cultural or socioeconomic circumstances and says a new Cabinet Minister for Children would make that a focus in all government departments.

Professors Keith Godfrey, Mark Hanson and Dr Chandni Maria Jacob, of the Faculty of Medicine contributed to the opening two chapters of report, which discuss how the first 1000 days and early years of a person’s life are instrumental in determining their future risk of non-communicable diseases; and that nutrition during preconception, pregnancy and infancy has a prolonged impact on children’s physical development and major implications for their lifelong health.

Some of the key recommendations of the report include:

  • A preconception health strategy to be fully integrated into primary healthcare (including practitioner initial and ongoing training) and raised in routine discussion during visits to a range of clinicians such as GPs, pharmacists, nurses, dietitians and sexual health services; preconception health to be a statutory national school curriculum requirement.
  • A ‘family first’ as opposed to ‘children’s diet’ approach to be advocated by health and childcare professionals.
  • Re-positioning strategy to promote and encourage lifelong physical activity so that it is not presented solely/predominantly through a medical or ‘deficit’ lens.


Professor Keith Godfrey said: “The health and wellbeing of our children and young people is in serious decline, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective co-ordinated measures led by Government are an urgent priority. As set out in today’s report, one of key measures must be a new focus on preconception health for the benefit of the next generation – this needs to include education about health and wellbeing before pregnancy and parenthood as a statutory national school curriculum requirement.”

Baroness Frances D’Souza, The Honorary President of The Children’s Alliance who published the report, said: “Physical Health is a comprehensive study of children’s physical health during the time of Covid-19. It features the work of 37 nationally-renowned specialists in children’s health, and it is published during the ‘festive season’ when children are traditionally bombarded by advertised food and drink ‘treats’ – to be succeeded by yet more ineffective measures narrowly focussed on ‘fighting the flab’ by calorie counting and step counting.

“Without effective co-ordinated measures led by Government, we run the risk that the next generation of UK adults will be the least healthy in living memory.”

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