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Politicians must put the healthcare of children first

Published 19/11/2015

Despite having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, child health in Northern Ireland is not as good as it should be.

We have the highest infant mortality rate in the UK and over a fifth of children live in poverty. Many of the causes of poor child health are linked to deprivation including poor mental health, accidental injury, suicides and self-harm, and risk factors of infant mortality such as smoking during pregnancy.

With the 2016 election a little over six months away, now is the time for child health to get the political profile it deserves.

Policies that cut across all government departments will be key to making this a reality. We want to see any new government commit to investment in prevention and early intervention, with a particular focus on reducing avoidable child deaths by encouraging women to adopt healthy lifestyles before and during pregnancy, and addressing health inequalities.

It's also crucial that the health and social care system is based on the needs of patients and that children and young people, as well as their parents and carers, are actively involved in decision-making on health and well-being issues.

Real change will not happen without political will.

There must be cross-party support for healthcare reform and the design of a healthcare system where patients are seen by the right professional, in the right place, at the right time, and that puts the quality and safety of patients at its core.

We are calling on all politicians to make children and young people's mental and physical health a priority.

With the right interventions and political will, Northern Ireland has the potential to be one of the best places in the world to grow up.

Dr Karl McKeever, Chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's Northern Ireland Committee

Dr Pauline McClenaghan, Executive Director, Lifestart Foundation

Breedagh Hughes, Northern Ireland Director, Royal College of Midwives

Dr Mark Rollins, President, Ulster Paediatric Society

Alison McNulty, CEO, Tiny Life RoSPA

Dr John O'Kelly, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners NI

MindWise

Mary Crawford, Director of Brook NI Healthy Living Centre Alliance

Lynda Wilson, Director, Barnardo's NI Action for Children NI

Celine McStravick, Director, NCB NI

Janice Smyth, Director, Royal College of Nursing, Northern Ireland

Heather Moorhead, Director, NI Confederation of Health and Social Care (NICON)

Sarah Quinlan, Executive Officer, Children's Heartbeat Trust

Dr Richard Wilson, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair of Child and Adolescent Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists in NI

Professor Diana Day Cody, Vice President of Royal College of Psychiatrists

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