The health of London’s children is being blighted by poverty that sees families struggle to feed themselves and heat their homes, according to a new survey of children’s doctors.
Eight out of 10 paediatricians in the capital who responded to the online poll, run by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Child Poverty Action Group, said that food insecurity “very much” affects the health of the children they see, compared to only a third the North of England.
Meanwhile, half of London doctors said children’s health was worsened by underheating at home.
Overall the survey, which polled 266 paediatricians across the country including 30 in London, found that the capital’s doctors were more likely than those in any other region to report that poverty was contributing “very much” to the poor health of children they saw.
Professor Russell Viner, spokesman for RCPCH, told the Standard that growing wealth inequalities in the capital since the financial crisis - including increasing reports of families turning to food banks - corresponded to growing inequalities in health.
He said: “We are seeing the return of some old-fashioned kinds of poverty that we had thought were 19th or 20th century problems."
Children from deprived areas in East and South London were more likely to suffer from diseases associated with poverty, such as obesity and respiratory illness, he said.
“One of the striking things from this survey, and one of the things that outrages me, is that a child living in one part of London can have such a higher chance of developing illnesses related to poverty than a child born 10 miles away in another part of London,” he said.
Prof Viner said the survey should sound an alarm for politicians across the political spectrum that poor health among children is bad for the whole city, given that a quarter of London’s population is under 20 years old.
“We want politicians to read this and respond to it ... Moving through Brexit and beyond, we really need healthy children to be competitive in the modern world,” he said.
In London 700,000 live below the poverty line, according to CPAG, accounting for 37 per cent of all children in the capital. While poverty rates are higher for everyone in London than nationally, this gap is larger for children than for any other group, it reports.
Within the capital child poverty is highest in Tower Hamlets, with nearly 49 percent living below the line, closely followed by Hackney and Newham. Richmond, City of London and Sutton see the lowest rates of under 20 percent.