Poverty and Child Injury

Child Poverty

Monika Kosinska, Jean Lambert and Sylvana Rapti.

On December 4, MEPs Jean Lambert, Marian Harkin, Edit Bauer, and Slyvana Rapti hosted EU policy makers and stake holders at a day- long seminar in the European Parliament, Brussels, to discuss the need for a multi-faceted approach to resolving the child poverty-health connection at an EU level. The event, chaired by Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance, involved experts from a range of child health and poverty institutions who were invited to speak to the issue, emphasising the far reaching impact of poverty on child health.

Poverty and health are deeply entwined, with poverty being the most significant indicator of a child's health prospects. Poor health, in turn, can prevent children from rising out of poverty as their prospects for education and work are reduced. However, the negative impacts can be mitigated through policies aimed at helping these high risk citizens.

Injuries, which are the leading cause of death and disability for children in every Member State in Europe, are an example of a health issue where action is needed. Children from low income communities suffer injuries at a much greater rate than children in affluent communities, and this pattern is found for all of the frequent causes of unintentional injury including road transport injuries, drowning, burns and scalds, falls and poisonings. Factors including poor road or housing conditions and unsafe play areas are all causes of higher unintentional injury rates in low income communities.

Intentional injury rates are also higher in low income communities, where greater economic pressure on families and alcohol and drug misuse contribute to an increased likelihood of child abuse, neglect, suicide and homicide.

In her presentation at the event, Joanne Vincenten, Director of the European Child Safety Alliance, shared that some of the steepest social gradients in mortality in the EU occur for injury, and that up to a nine fold difference in injury rates can be found between children from low income and high income communities in the same country. She stated, "The impact of poverty on children’s right to safety is enormous. The inequalities that exist for child injury are for the most part preventable and therefore avoidable; as such they are unfair, unjust and lead to inequity. Historically investment in child injury prevention from relevant sectors at the local, national and European levels has not been commensurate with the size of the problem. Increased investment is necessary to ensure children’s rights to health and safety."

Seminar participants devoted the afternoon to discussing how EU institutions can best tackle the issues of poverty, inequality and health, including debating priorities to be included in proposals for a European Parliament report on Children's Health, a Commission-initiated EU-wide strategy on Children's Health, and a Commission and Member States Joint Action on Children's Health.

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