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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

School Nurses and Dentists Raise Alarm Over Children’s Health Decline Due to Hunger

The Hidden Epidemic: School Nurses and Dentists Raise Alarm Over Children’s Health Decline Due to Hunger

The Rising Concern Over Children’s Health

In the United Kingdom, over 60% of child health practitioners, including school nurses and dentists, have reported a significant deterioration in children’s health, largely attributable to hunger and poor nutrition. This alarming statistic surfaced from a recent poll conducted among 313 health practitioners, pointing towards a grave public health crisis.

 The Disturbing Health Indicators Among Children

According to the survey, 65% of health practitioners disclosed that children’s health had worsened over the past year, primarily due to inadequate nutrition and hunger. Alarmingly, 28% noted an increase in health problems among children, with more frequent or severe health issues.

This silent epidemic reveals itself through various symptoms. Over half of the respondents (53%) reported that children were not growing or gaining weight at the expected rate, while 58% indicated unusually low energy levels. Furthermore, 55% reported behavioral changes in children, such as uncharacteristic irritability, sluggishness, or anxiety, with 51% observing a rise in mental health issues.

Hunger and Poor Nutrition Impacting Dental Health

A staggering 78% of participants in the survey said they had noticed children’s teeth decaying or being damaged at a higher rate than usual – a worrying indicator of poor nutrition. Unhealthy diets are not only leading to undernutrition but also causing long-term health issues like tooth decay, posing a dual challenge for healthcare providers.

 The Need for Universal Free School Meals

In light of the shocking revelations, the overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents from the School and Public Health Nurses Association and the British Dental Association have advocated for extending free school meals to all primary children. This measure could be instrumental in ensuring no child goes hungry, thereby alleviating the public health crisis.

 Uniting Voices for Action

The survey’s disturbing findings have stirred activists, politicians, and civil society leaders into a week-long call to action, urging the Government to extend the free meal scheme. Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, highlighted that with 4.2 million children living in poverty, it is incumbent on the Government to take action.

The Call for Free School Meals for All

Echoing the national sentiment, the Mirror is campaigning for free school meals for every primary pupil in England. Considering that hunger can hinder learning and concentration, free school meals could give every child the chance to flourish, while providing relief to parents struggling to afford meals for their children.

 Voices from the Frontline

Sharon White, Chief Executive of the School and Public Health Nurses Association, and Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association, have spoken out strongly on the issue. They emphasize that the solution lies in the Government’s hands, urging immediate action to prevent the children’s health situation from worsening.

This article is based on a news report originally published by Mirror.

Keywords: Children’s Health, Hunger, Poor Nutrition, Dental Health, Free School Meals, Child Health Practitioners, School Nurses, Dentists, British Dental Association, School and Public Health Nurses Association, Public Health Crisis, Health Indicators, Tooth Decay, Mental Health Issues, Government Action.

The Staggering Reality of Food Insecurity Among Children

In England, nearly 1.7 million children live in households struggling to obtain sufficient food, with the North East being the most severely affected. Shockingly, an estimated 800,000 children living in poverty are not eligible for free school meals. This glaring discrepancy between the need for nutrition and the lack of access to it is leading to a spiraling health crisis among children.

The Inescapable Cost of Inaction

The cost of inaction is high, as the health consequences of hunger and poor nutrition extend beyond childhood. Kevin Courtney warns that the jobs of frontline healthcare staff like school nurses, dentists, and teachers are becoming increasingly challenging amidst rising poverty. Their vital role in supporting young people’s health is being undermined by the widespread lack of access to nutritious food.

The Urgent Need for Universal Free School Meals

The stark findings from the survey bring the spotlight back on the necessity for free school meals for all primary-age children. Sharon White states, “This should not be happening in the fifth richest country in the world,” echoing the sentiment that food security for children should be a given, not a privilege. She strongly advocates for universal Free School Meals, without which the decline in children’s health outcomes may continue unabated into adulthood.

 A Toxic Food Environment: The Dental Perspective

Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association, brings another dimension to this multifaceted issue. He describes the food environment children are born into as toxic, with dentists witnessing the resultant dental health issues every day. The children’s health crisis is not only about hunger and poor nutrition but also about the quality of the food that those fortunate enough to eat consume.

 The Pressing Need for Action

The mounting evidence of children’s deteriorating health due to hunger and poor nutrition demands immediate and decisive action. Whether it’s the expansion of free school meals or broader strategies to tackle poverty, the need for intervention is clear. As the week of action unfolds, the hope is that decision-makers will listen, act, and urgently provide the resources necessary to reverse this alarming trend.


Reference:

 The survey, School and Public Health Nurses Association, British Dental Association, National Education Union, Universal Free School Meals, and Frontline Healthcare Staff.

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