Belfast Telegraph

All children deserve the best start

By Andrew McCracken

The fact that the infant mortality rate is 24% higher in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland than in the least deprived is a very sad reminder of the inequalities that continue to exist in our community.

The statistic - released recently by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety as part of its key facts on health inequalities in Northern Ireland - resonates particularly strongly with me through my work as chief executive of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and in my personal life.

My wife and I have just celebrated the first birthday of our youngest son.

We are fortunate that our son is healthy and that we have been able to ensure he has the best possible start to life.

However, it's shocking to think that, in some parts of our community, a baby born a few streets away from another child is more likely to die in infancy.

I know through the Community Foundation's work in various communities that many people experience inequality on a daily basis and that children who get an unfair start in life are, in the majority of cases, not going to be able to escape the consequences of this.

The question for each of us is whether we are happy to live in a community where such inequality is experienced by our neighbours.

In the last financial year, out of the hundreds of projects we have funded, 44 have been aimed at improving the lives of children and young people, as well as also advancing people's physical and mental health, wellbeing and safety.

This included projects which specifically provide support for new mums living in disadvantaged areas.

These projects also aim to support families who have experienced the loss of a child.

Every child born into our society deserves the best start possible and we will continue our work with families in need.

The question I am left with, as I meet people from all parts of the community, is how I can look them in the eye knowing that our children's lives could be so different simply because of our postcodes.

Andrew McCracken is chief executive of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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