Agenda item

Understanding Health Inequalities

To update the Sub-Committee on the health of young people under 18 in the borough




The Sub-Committee considered a presentation by the Director of Public Health on understanding health inequalities and the health of young people in the Borough.

It was noted that:


-       The Marmot Review had evidenced that mortality and morbidity for children and young people was preventable


-       Inequalities in health had a significant and negative impact on the health and well being of children – a low birth weight baby was five times more likely to die as an infant than those of normal birth weight


-       Overweight, obese children were at a greater risk of poorer attainment


-       Poverty was a key issue and associated with negative outcomes and child poverty in the Riverside ward was 34.3% compared to 5.3% in St Mary’s ward


-       Covid 19 had exposed and amplified the existing inequalities facing children and the wider effects of Covid had disproportionately and negatively affected vulnerable children


-       In terms of education and the impact of Covid, school attendance was very important for children and young people and critical to reduce health inequalities


-       The Child Health Profile for North Tyneside in March 2021 (copies of which had been circulated at the meeting) provided a good snapshot of child health in the area and overall comparing local indicators with England averages, the health and well being of children in North Tyneside was mixed.


-       The infant mortality rate was similar to England with an average of 8 infants dying before age 1 each year.  Recently there have been 4 child deaths (1-17 year olds) each year on average


-       By 6-8 weeks after birth, 42.2% of mothers were still breastfeeding and this was one of the biggest protectors against poverty and promoted by the Health Visiting Service Programme


-       The levels of child obesity compared with the English average were worse, with 25.8% of children in Reception class and 36.2% of children in Year 6 who have excess weight and was a concern in some localities.


-       Covid 19 had impacted on nutrition and physical activity as the less affluent were less likely to eat well and exercise more


-       In relation to young people’s mental health, nationally the rate of young people being admitted to hospital as a result of self harm was increasing and this was also the case for North Tyneside.  Lockdowns have had an impact with the withdrawal of structure and support and there has been an increase in the demand for Counselling services and referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).


-       Dental health was an issue with 12.7% of 5 year olds with experience of dental decay


-       In North Tyneside there were significant improvements in teenage pregnancy rates and fewer young people taking up smoking


-       However there were clear inequalities in health outcomes and to address health inequalities the wider determinants of health needed to be addressed by optimising the conditions


The Sub-Committee discussed the issues raised in the presentation and in the course of discussion raised the following points:


-       Schools had been asked to remain open during the lockdowns for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils and some pupils had benefitted from smaller class sizes which was a positive aspect of the pandemic. 


-       The strategy for children and young people’s mental health was being refreshed due to Covid and the Mental Health First Aid Project would examine the gaps and offer more time for teaching about mental and physical health and well being and more support for parents and more staff would also be involved in mental health advice, guidance and signposting


-       Local Authority officers began the first phase of a pilot project to achieve an ambition to train staff and pupils from North Tyneside schools in mental health awareness, with two staff trained as mental health first aiders from each school. The intention behind this universal offer, was to ensure there was a shared language and understanding of the impact of poor mental ill-health. Thus, enabling all staff to provide appropriate responses to all pupils at the point of need


-       Reference was made to the trend of young people taking up vaping and it was noted that currently there were no figures on a local level and no evidence to suggest that young people would go on to use other drugs.


-       With regard to the statistics on children living in poverty it was confirmed that these included in work poverty and average incomes and in terms of poverty intervention, the creation of secure jobs with decent salaries would be important.


-       Concerns were expressed that mental health support was chronically underfunded and that a child with mental health needs would be likely to carry on with the problem into adulthood.


The Chair thanked the Director of Public health for the informative presentation and for attendance at the meeting.