Doctor’s fears over children’s health in Third World London

Thousands of children in parts of central London are suffering levels of malnourishment similar to those found in developing countries, a leading GP warned today.

Dr Sam Everington laid bare the scandal of poor health in communities just a few streets away from affluent areas including the City and Canary Wharf.

The Tower Hamlets GP said: “We estimate probably a half of our children are malnourished; vitamin D-deficient, iron-deficient. We have a massive problem right next to the City of London.
“It’s very similar to what you would find in developing countries in big parts of our communities.”

Sir Michael Marmot, president of the British Medical Association, said the difference in life expectancy between Tottenham and parts of Kensington and Chelsea is 18 years.

Calling for more focus on the causes of ill-health, he said: “We have persisting inequalities of income, in early child development, education, employment opportunities, the nature of work and in the differences and nature of our communities, all of which are places where action needs to take place.”

The two experts’ findings reinforced the need highlighted in the Standard’s Dispossessed campaign to tackle poverty and inequality in London. Dr Everington, a former deputy chairman of the BMA who works at the healthy living Bromley by Bow Centre, emphasised that getting people into work was crucial to improving their health.

However, there is evidence that health inequalities in London could be narrowing. A National Audit Office report found that while the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor in the country is widening, parts of the capital were bucking the trend.

“Deprived” parts of London studied included Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

For men, the average inequality gap in these boroughs fell by 30 per cent between 1995-97 and 2006-08, compared with the national average for all primary care trusts, and by 69 per cent for women.

But experts cautioned that these apparently significant changes may be down to gentrification of some boroughs, and population movements, rather than simply health improvements in deprived communities.

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