West Midlands children suffering most with poor health and development

The National Children's Bureau charity released its "Poor Beginnings" report on the health of under five's Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Archive/PA Images

Children under five living in the West Midlands are more likely to be at risk from childhood obesity, hospital admissions and tooth decay, according to new findings.

Analysis from the National Children's Bureau showed that at regional level, if under-fives in the region enjoyed the same health and development as those in the South East, nearly 1,800 fewer children would be obese.

The report confirms that the health and development of children under five is closely linked to the affluence of the area they grow up in, with those living in deprived areas far more likely to suffer poor health.

A five-year-old in Wolverhampton is around 50% more likely to be obese and to be suffering from tooth decay than a child of the same age in Warwickshire.

It's shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau
  • Leicester is the worst place in the country for tooth decay among under-5's

  • Leicester has the UK's lowest percentage of pre-school kids achieving a good level of development

However the data revealed that poor early health is not inevitable for children growing up in deprived areas.

Several areas with high levels of deprivation buck the trend and achieve better than expected results, suggesting that more work is needed to understand how local strategies and programmes can make a difference.

A child living in the West Midlands will have:

  • High level of early childhood obesity - 10.5%

  • High rate of hospital admission for injury - 152 per 10,000

  • Poor level of achieving development in reception class - 58%

Trends in inequalities of health can be complex as this report suggests, with poverty not always being associated with poor heath outcomes.

Cheryll Adams, Chief Executive of the Institute of Health Visitors

The report calls on the government to set out a renewed strategy to improve the health and development of children and families in the early years, and to investigate the differences found in the report and how they relate back to local health initiatives.