Last updated:

Child and young people's health

School kids run towards camera

The BMA has a longstanding interest in child health and the impact of social inequalities on health outcomes for children and young people.

We have developed a number of policies and published reports on diverse aspects of child health ranging from nutrition and obesity, through to mental health and austerity.

Worryingly, we observe that little has changed to improve outcomes since the publication of our major report on child health in 2013, and many of its findings still ring true today.

We find it unacceptable that the future health and wellbeing of a child born in the UK still remains dependent on their social position, and that we continue to lag behind many other European countries on a range of child health outcomes without good reason.


Supporting a healthy childhood

Our 2020 briefing examines recent trends in spending on and provision of services for children that keep them healthy.

A safe, supportive and happy childhood environment is widely understood to be vital for a child’s development, health and wellbeing over the short- and long-term. Conversely, an established body of evidence shows a correlation between a disruptive, adverse or chaotic childhood environment and an increased prevalence of physical and mental health problems.

Despite this established evidence base, our analysis of recent data highlights insufficient investment in England across a range of services to support a healthy childhood, with funding for a number of different services being cut in recent years. This lack of resource is likely to have an adverse impact on child health in England.

Read more


Growing up in the UK 2013

Our keystone report on children and young people was published in May 2013. The report concluded that we are failing our most vulnerable children, and expressed major concerns about the effects of poverty and social inequalities on child health and wellbeing in the UK.

The authors criticised short-sighted spending cuts on health intervention projects, and argued that investing money to address the causes of inequalities is far more effective than paying for the consequences.

Recommendations in the report set out what is needed to move towards an equitable society, where all children are given the best start in life by adopting a life-course approach to child health.

Read Growing up in the UK


Growing up in the UK 2016: progress report

Three years on, we have undertaken a review of our 2013 report, looking at the changes that have occurred.

We asked a number of health experts to tell us what has changed since the publication of Growing up in the UK in the fields of:

  • child nutrition
  • child maltreatment
  • children and young people’s mental health
  • children with disabilities; and
  • life course development and the origins of adult disease.

While there has been some progress to address children’s health needs, there are still aspects of health and wellbeing that are worsening, particularly in the areas of child maltreatment, disability, and mental health.

The progress reports also list actions to be taken by government and within the health and social sectors towards addressing these deficiencies.

See our progress reports


Cutting away at our children's futures

How austerity is affecting the health of children, young people and families

Read our briefing, Health in all policies, exploring the broader effects of austerity on society and aims to support doctors' advocacy role

The government's wide sweeping cuts to benefits and services across the country in recent years is a major contributing factor to poor health outcomes for children and young people.

In light of this, we have produced a report focusing on the impact of austerity and welfare reforms on children, young people and families.

The cumulative result of increases in the cost of living, cuts to services and benefits are explored in the report, which finds that the effects of austerity have been more detrimental to children than to many other groups.

It highlights how these factors have contributed to increases in the number of children living in poverty, and demonstrates that the most vulnerable children continue to be some of the worst affected.  

Read more and see our key findings


Further information

  • Resources for child health

    We are partnering with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) with the aim of improving collaboration and engagement between child health organisations and the BMA.

    View the RCPCH resources relevant to doctors and healthcare professionals working with children.


    Healthy Child Programme 0-18 - e-learning module

    E-learning modules covering health promotion and common child and adolescent health issues from infancy to adulthood.

    See the modules


    Paediatric Care Online

    An online decision support system designed to help health practitioners manage childhood illness, Paediatric Care Online provides evidence-based advice, facilitating decision making from the point of presentation and offering a 'roadmap' for common signs, symptoms and critical care situations.

    Access the online tool


    Facing the future: Standards for Acute General Paediatric Services

    Revised standards for high quality, safe and sustainable acute general paediatric inpatient services to ensure paediatrics is a 24/7 service with the most experienced doctors present at the busiest times.

    Learn more about the standards


    Facing the future: Together for Child Health

    New joint standards from the RCPCH, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of GPs for the unscheduled care of children, that aim to reduce unnecessary attendances at the ED and admissions to hospital by ensuring specialist child health expertise is available directly into primary care services to provide better connected care, closer to home.

    Read the standards


  • BMA publications on child health

    Read our previous reports on child health and download our children and young people ethics toolkit.


    Alcohol and pregnancy: Preventing and managing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

    Revised in 2016, this report outlines the responsibilities of healthcare professionals and sets out a wide-spectrum of recommendations for policy makers, to improve the prevention, diagnosis and management of these disorders.

    Read the report


    Food for thought: Promoting healthy diets among children and young people

    Our report sets out the measures needed to help promote healthier diets among children and young people plus key recommendations.

    Read the report


    Young lives behind bars: The health and human rights of children and young people detained in the criminal justice system

    This report highlights that, although the origins of offending behaviour are complex, many of the children and young people in detention represent a failure by the individuals and agencies whose job it is to care for and support them.

    Read the report


    Children and young people ethics toolkit

    Identify key factors when making ethical decisions about children and young people using the 15 cards in our tool kit.

    Download the toolkit