Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Child health report should shame MLAs

Editor's Viewpoint

If the current generation of adults can pass on anything positive to our children, it should be improved health. Yet a damning report shows that we are failing future generations in practically every possible way.

The paper from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) Ireland blames the deadlock at Stormont, which has now entered its third year. What a shaming verdict on our political class - and on society in general, which has done little to force MLAs to return to office.

The healthcare of the population, particularly its most vulnerable members, should be the number one priority of any administration that considers itself civilised.

However, in Northern Ireland a panel aimed at preventing child deaths, and a strategy for dealing with childhood obesity, have not been implemented because of the political stasis.

This, it should be stressed, is against a background of the worst child mortality rate in the UK.

What possible political policy trumps the requirement to tackle this disgraceful state of affairs?

The report lists a number of issues which need to be tackled urgently if child health is not to slip further into crisis. The establishment of a Child Death Overview Panel is of most pressing need so that it can gather the required information to determine why children die and what measures can be taken to prevent future tragedies.

A policy on road safety measures and continued monitoring of the effectiveness of breastfeeding are two initiatives which have reached the statute books - which the RCPCH describes as miraculous, given the political deadlock.

This report should shock us all and should make us demand that the politicians redouble their efforts to restore devolution. Brexit has sucked the lifeblood out of the body politic in the UK, reducing the ability of Westminster to concentrate on anything but how to leave the EU.

Here, it has turned the political atmosphere toxic.

But whatever the impact of Brexit - if it happens - it will be less disastrous than the continued absence of a devolved administration on the health of our children.

The problems are multiple and complex, and clear-headed vision is required to tackle them.

Otherwise we will have passed on a dangerous legacy to our children.

Belfast Telegraph

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