Child Health - Oct 2012
The health of our children is vital to the social and economic growth of our country. There are many reasons for investing in the health of our children from antenatal health through to teenage years.
Many lifelong illnesses and disabilities originate in early childhood, and sometimes as early as prenatally . Ensuring that children have the healthiest start in life provides the basis for good health in adulthood. Investment in early childhood health and development also increases the likelihood that children will attend school, earn higher income as adults, and be less dependent on welfare support. Giving children the opportunity to realise their maximum potential is key to addressing inequalities in health and ensuring a healthier more productive workforce.
Obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges affecting children of all ages with major implications for health and health services into the future. An urgent multidisciplinary programme is needed to tackle childhood obesity.
As young people reach adolescence they are exposed to new risks and choices affecting their health including, tobacco, alcohol consumption and illicit drug use as well as unsafe sexual behaviour. It is important that strategies to reduce harmful lifestyle choices are implemented and that young people are not deterred from seeking appropriate advice from their physicians.
Suicide and self harm is a major issue among young people today and a range of population measures and targeted interventions are required to improve mental health and help-seeking among adolescents.
With approximately one quarter of the population under 18, Ireland has the youngest population in the EU. With the appointment of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the establishment of a separate Department, the Government is showing its commitment to delivering policy and legislation to improve the lives and rights of children. The IMO are calling for renewed focus on child health promotion and services.