Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2013: Editorials

Doctors need to take the lead on poverty’s effects on health

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 18 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7540
  1. David Taylor-Robinson, Medical Research Council population health scientist1,
  2. Dominic Harrison, director of public health 2,
  3. Margaret Whitehead, Duncan professor of public health1,
  4. Ben Barr, senior clinical lecturer in applied public health1
  1. 1Department of Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GB, UK
  2. 2Public Health Department, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackburn, UK
  1. david.taylor-robinson{at}

Data suggest hard times ahead, especially for increasing numbers of children

For the first time in more than 17 years, child poverty in the United Kingdom increased in absolute terms in 2011-12.1 This follows a long term reduction in child poverty from among the highest rates in Europe. These were hard won gains resulting from policies to improve the life chances of children in the UK. Now we see worrying signs that these achievements are being undone.

Poverty leading to inadequate nutrition is one of the oldest and most serious global health problems. Although it is assumed not to be a serious issue in rich countries such as the UK, we have highlighted a nearly twofold increase in hospital admissions linked to malnutrition in England—from 3000 cases in 2008-9 to 5500 in 2012-13.2 People’s food purchasing behaviours have changed since the recession. The poorest households have reduced their consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish, with evidence of substitution by unhealthier foods, especially in families with young children.2 3 More children are turning up to school hungry in the UK, with …

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