Intended for healthcare professionals


NHS must prioritise health of children and young people

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 14 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1116
  1. Russell M Viner, president, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  1. UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. r.viner{at}

Our future health and prosperity depend on it

Children and young people are a quarter of our population1 but 100% of our future. Our moral obligation to promote children’s health is clear within UK law and in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Furthermore, 94% of adult Britons believe children’s health should be a priority for the NHS.2 Despite this, the low priority that UK health systems give to children suggests we must marshal other arguments to convince policy makers.

Children and young people aged 0-19 years are the workforce of the 2020s and the parents of the next generation. Their health will be one of the factors deciding whether the UK is prosperous after 2019. Countries that invest in child health reap impressive economic rewards, with each pound spent on children’s health returning over £10 to society over a lifetime.3 The converse is that poor health in childhood leads to reduced workforce participation and productivity4 and lowers national wealth.3

The UK has a higher birth rate5 and a higher proportion of young people …

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