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‘We are failing our children’ – Sir Michael Marmot

The UK is facing a ‘public health time bomb’, a new report into inequalities across Europe has warned.

The report, published by the WHO and the UCL Institute of Health Equity and led by Sir Michael Marmot, found the UK’ high proportion of children living in poverty and lack of education and jobs for many is having profound effects on the nation’s health. It recommends better early-years provision for children, and action to tackle inequality.

The report states: “All children aged three and above are eligible for 15 free hours of early-years education per week. In addition, from September 2013, the most disadvantaged two-year-olds will be also be eligible. Local authorities will be responsible for funding these places, and there are concerns regarding the effect that this will have on other services available to families.”

Sir Michael said: “Unemployment may be falling in the UK, but persistent high levels of the number of young people over 18 not in employment, education or training is storing up a public health time bomb waiting to explode. We are failing too many of our children, women and young people on a grand scale.

“I would say to any government that cares about the health of its population: look at the impact of their policies on the lives people are able to lead and, more importantly, at the impact on inequality. Health inequality, arising from social and economic inequalities, is socially unjust, unnecessary and avoidable, and it offends against the human right to health.

“Action to improve everyone's health and reduce the social gradient in health needs to start at the earliest age, before people become unwell. Good quality early-years provision must be a priority for all children. There needs to be a broad range of social policies, including improvements in every child's start to life, [and] adequate social protection that can act as a buffer against low income over the life-course and provide a minimum standard for healthy living.”

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