Child Public Health

What is Child Public Health? 

Child public health is a sub-speciality of public health.  Often, public health specialists and paediatricians work together on this area (sometimes called child health).   The aim is to optimise health and well-being of all children and young people.  

Children and young people are most vulnerable to communicable diseases and to the wider determinants of health.  Moreover, child health is a determinant of adult health and as a result, interventions or behavioural change in childhood and/or adolescence (e.g. reduction of childhood obesity)  can have a positive impact on future health in adulthood.   (A determinant is any factor or characteristic that increases the risk of disease or brings about a change in health either for better or worse).  

In summary, child public health covers:
  • The pattern of health and illness in children and young people (CYP)
  • The investigation of the factors which affect CYP health and the ways in which we can modify them to improve health and well-being of children and young people 
Over the past 100 years, the burden of perinatal and infant mortality and malnutrition has declined in high income countries.   Vaccination and sanitation measures have reduced the incidence of infectious diseases.  However, there has been an increase in multi-factorial disorders and conditions which require more complex preventive approach - e.g. mental, emotional and behavioural problems, physical and neurodevelopment disability, obesity and asthma.   

In today's UK population, the key child health problems are:
  • acute illnesses (e.g. anaphylaxis, meningitis)
  • chronic illnesses (e.g. asthma, cancer)
  • disabilities
  • injury (unintentional and non-accidental)
  • mental health disorders
  • eating disorders and nutrition 
The majority of children live in low-income and middle-income countries and have a different experience of life and health.  There the key child health problems are:
  • malnutrition
  • respiratory infections
  • diarrhoeal diseases
  • vaccine preventable diseases
  • infectious diseases
  • disability 
  • absolute poverty
  • war and violence
  • famine, drought and flooding
  • climate change
  • availability of health care and education 

Child Health Priorities

  • Maternal health
  • Low birth weight
  • Safeguarding children
  • Infant mental health 
  • Breastfeeding
  • Parenting and early years (child development & school readiness)
  • Delivering the Healthy Child Programme
  • Emotional health and wellbeing
  • Oral health 
  • Nutrition (e.g. preventing iron and vitamin D deficiencies) 
  • Child obesity 
  • Reducing unintentional (accidental) injury
  • Reducing and preventing child deaths
  • Children with complex needs and/or disability 
  • Looked after children
  • Young offenders 

Drivers for Improving Child Health 

  • Improving quality of maternity and health services 
  • Parenting programmes
  • Childcare and early years education
  • Cohesive services (GPs, midwives, health visitors, hospital services, children's centres etc all working together putting the child at the centre of their care)
  • Child Health Surveillance 

Determinants of Child Health

  • Human biology
  • Parental and personal behaviour
  • Family influence and parenting (e.g. mother-infant attachment, childcare, 'good enough' parenting)
  • Community and social network
  • Physical environment (e.g. smoke free)
  • Education
  • Socio-economic environment
  • War and conflict 
  • Culture and attitudes
  • Health and social care services
  • Natural environment (e.g. climate change)
  • Political and legal system