By Christian Barnett – Local Democracy Reporter
More work is needed to stop Worcester children from leading unhealthy lifestyles and becoming unhealthy adults, a report has found.
In her annual report into the state of the county’s health and wellbeing, director of Public Health Frances Howie said the council, families, schools and health bodies need to do more to prevent unhealthy children from becoming unhealthy adults.
The report highlights current and ‘emerging’ issues in the county including the number of mothers smoking during and after pregnancy, the ever-decreasing and below average rate of breastfeeding amongst the county’s children and childhood obesity – all of which have a negative impact on children and put them at greater risk in the future and into adulthood.
School readiness – which includes children being well-behaved, using initiative and amongst others, concentrating properly – in some of the county’s families who receive free school meals is also poor.
The report, titled ‘Prevention is better than cure’ said: “Children exposed to smoking in pregnancy and those assessed as having poor school readiness are more at risk of poorer outcomes in later life and yet both are evident in Worcestershire with 12 per cent of women still smoking when their babies are born, and children with free school meals having the worst school readiness scores.”
The report, which will be discussed by the county council’s health and wellbeing board, said only 46 per cent of children who received a free school meal in Worcestershire reached a good level of development at the end of reception – five per cent worse than the England average.
In the county, 23 per cent of reception class children are obese or overweight.
Dr Howie also said in her report the ‘emerging’ issue of breastfeeding amongst the county’s mothers is low – almost 68 per cent of mothers breast-feed in Worcestershire, compared to 74.5 per cent nationally – and is getting lower.
The report said: “Breastfeeding is an important part of giving children the best start in life, preventing and reducing a number of health risks and associated with improved maternal outcomes such as reduced obesity.”