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What we say about… The best start in life

Children, young people and families · Position statements | September 20, 2023

Our key messages

  • The first 1,001 days are critical to a child’s development and set the foundations for lifelong emotional and physical wellbeing – a shift towards prevention and early intervention is needed to support children to lead healthy and fulfilling lives and prevent ill health in later life.


  • Children have a right to – and benefit from – healthy happy childhoods.


  • A whole system approach is needed to address the determinants of child health, with joint working between the NHS, housing, education, social services, voluntary, police and youth justice sectors.


  • The UK still compares unsatisfactorily to countries of similar wealth for both infant and child mortality rates.


  • Measures should be in place to address childhood poverty.

Our national recommendations

  • A new Child Poverty Act which commits to ending child poverty by 2030 should be introduced.


  • A whole family approach should be taken with a focus on positive parenting.


  • More resources should be dedicated to the delivery of the healthy child programme, with flexibility so that services can adapt according to need.


  • Governments across the four nations should recognise the importance of the early years sector in supporting young children and their families.


  • A national framework should be developed to encourage the use of trauma informed approaches as perinatal mental health can affect parent-infant relationships and have a significant impact on a child’s development.


  • A long-term plan and public health campaign are required to change the culture of breastfeeding.


  • Governments across the UK should take action to reduce sugar in children’s food and drink and the marketing and composition of baby food should also be regulated, with restrictions on nutrition and health claims on packaging.

Our local recommendations

  • Effective integration of health and social care services and a whole system, place-based approach should be adopted to improve children’s health and wellbeing with health professionals including GPs, midwives, health visitors and social workers trained to identify prenatal and perinatal maternal problems early, offer support and signpost.


  • Local public health authorities should advocate to increase the uptake of childhood immunisation and data on vaccination uptake and health inequalities should be available to public health teams, so that immunisation programmes can respond to local needs.


  • Maternity services, primary care, health visiting, and paediatric services should support mothers in making informed choices around breastfeeding and offer practical support to help them initiate and maintain breastfeeding.


  • Health professionals should be trained to identify child oral health issues early and fluoridation of public water supplies should be considered where there is a high prevalence of tooth decay.
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