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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 4:53 pm, 4th March 2020

I totally accept that, and actually, children in low-income families have three times the rate of mental health problems. Three-year-olds in a household with an income of less than £10,000 have two and a half times the chronic diseases, and by the time they start school, we find that the poorest children have over a year’s gap in vocabulary. It is important to try to balance that. That is one reason that the Scottish Government are investing in early learning for all children—all three-year-olds and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds—and also have put in a pupil equity premium that allows the school to have additional funding to try to meet the challenge where they are serving poorer communities.

The problem starts before the child is born. A woman carrying a female child is carrying her grandchildren, because the eggs in a female are formed in the womb. That means that if that mother is badly nourished, she will be affecting health for the next two generations. That needs to be changed, which is why we have invested. We have the best start grant, which goes to the pregnant woman at birth, when the child starts nursery and when the child starts school. There is also food support, because we need to change this right at the start of life.

Health and wellbeing should be an overarching priority for any Government and for all their citizens, regardless of where they live. This requires a “Health in all policies” approach, not saying, “Clean air is DEFRA’s issue.” We need this as a cross-government policy whereby every decision is checked to see whether it will improve the physical, mental and environmental wellbeing of the citizens the Government are responsible for.