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4Children calls for integrated healthcare for families

Public services must be more integrated to become family friendly, charity 4Children has urged.

A new report highlights that families living in the poorest neighbourhoods in England will, on average, die seven years earlier than the richest. More preventative health support for children and families should be at the heart of the community, it recommends, including antenatal classes, health visitor support, speech and language development, child psychiatrists and ongoing support as children grow up.

‘Radical changes’ to public services should build a system of support responsive to families, including integrated health and local community services, and create a holistic approach to children’s health, including early intervention.

Children’s centres should be at the heart of local authoritie’s and health and wellbeing boards’ strategies, the government should extend the pupil premium to early years, and provide a revitalised ‘green deal’ for the most vulnerable households, to help eradicate fuel poverty, the charity recommends.

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of 4Children said: “All of the evidence shows that health inequalities are interlinked, yet the majority of health diagnostics are still treated in isolation. Parents tell us that they struggle to access holistic health support or treatment, which means that children continue to have the symptoms of poor health treated, rather than the root causes. 

“If we are going to reduce the health inequalities that many families and children face, especially disadvantaged families, we need to put their needs first by offering joined up support in the community, near to home.

“Our health isn’t just about our health services, but the kind of society in which we choose to live and expect. There must be radical changes to our health services, to build a new system of support that is responsive to families; available early to prevent problems developing; and committed to work with the strengths of families if crises occur.

“We are urging health and wellbeing boards and commissioners to shape a new local architecture for children and family health. Children and family centres represent multi-purpose community hubs which local families can use to access an extensive range of services, such as midwives and health visitors, to housing or debt advice whilst also helping to tackle underlying causes of family crisis such as domestic violence, mental health, and drug addiction.

“Taking a whole family approach, and pooling our resources across health and family support is not only good economics but will also help to improve outcomes and bring us closer to delivering the first class system of joined up support that families deserve.”

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