Postcode lottery of child health in the West Midlands


The National Children’s Bureau has found that the health and development of young children varies dramatically between different parts of England.

Examples include a children living in the West Midlands having high levels of early childhood obesity (10.5%), high rates of hospital admissions for injury (152 per 10,000), and lower numbers of children in reception class achieving a good level of development (58%). The region has a slightly below average rate of tooth decay in five-year olds.

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, just 50 miles down the road.

At a regional level, if under-fives in the West Midlands enjoyed the same health and development as those in the South East, almost 1,800 fewer children would be obese.

Within the West Midlands, Wolverhampton ranks among the ten local authority areas nationally with the highest levels of early childhood obesity.

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.

Comparing the 30 most deprived local authorities in England with the 30 best-off, the report finds that children under five in poor areas are significantly more prone to obesity, tooth decay, accidental injuries and lower educational development. While only 18.4% of children living in the 30 richest areas suffer from tooth decay, this rises substantially to 31.6% of four to five-year-olds in the 30 most deprived areas.

However, the data shows 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. For example, children in Walsall have lower rates of hospital admissions for injuries despite high levels of deprivation.