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A GRIM picture of tens of thousands of children in Britain needlessly suffering rotting teeth and obesity was painted by shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth today.
Speaking at the inaugural conference of the National Association for Hospital Education in Leicester, Mr Ashworth announced a £500 million programme to tackle child health problems if Labour comes to power.
The association has been established to support education professionals who work with children and young people with medical and mental health difficulties.
Mr Ashworth said Britain lagged behind other developed countries on mortality, breastfeeding and obesity rates and that social inequality in Britain was widening.
He said: “A quarter of five-year-olds in England suffer from tooth decay, an almost entirely preventable condition, whilst more than one in three year six pupils are either overweight or obese — today we learnt this rate has actually risen over the past year.”
But he said a society should be judged on the way it treats its children and the opportunities it provides for them.
“With a Labour government every child will matter,” he said. “My driving mission as someone who aspires to be health secretary is to radically improve the health and wellbeing of every child.
“And it’s my ambition that we should be able to boast in this country of having the healthiest children in the world — at the moment sadly we are nowhere near that.
“So Labour will create a new £500 million child health fund to invest in our ambitions to improve the health and wellbeing of every child.
“We’ve also got to improve perinatal mental health support. One in five new mothers develop a mental health problem around the time of the birth of their child and some 30,000 more women need specialist services.
“Vulnerable mothers and children also need the support of our brilliant health visitors. So we will invest more in health visiting, more in development and a Labour government will bring back the training bursary to ensure we train more nurses and midwives, and in turn recruit more health visitors in the future too.”
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