The Patients Association has issued a report suggesting that under-nutrition among children is not confined to the developing world, but is a problem in Britain today.

The project was undertaken by the Patients Association and funded by a non-restricted education grant from Abbott. A cross-section of health and care staff in four sites – Bradford, Cornwall, Tower Hamlets and Birmingham – were interviewed. Parents were also interviewed in Bradford and Cornwall.

The findings reveal examples of positive efforts in working with children and families across agencies, particularly by public health teams, community and acute health staff; but many are overstretched and unable to meet demand for the types of information and guidance that people need.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Awareness of undernutrition should be raised among both professionals and the public
  • New and existing training and guidance for professionals should include the identification and treatment of under-nutrition
  • National guidance and a care pathway should be developed specifically for undernutrition.

Heather Eardley, Head of Projects and Partnerships at the Patients Association, said: “Parents are keen to do the best for their children but in a world with easy access to cheap fast food, where people often lack time and where there are confusing messages abound, it is not surprising that children aren’t getting the right nutrients and a balanced diet. This can result in children being underweight, a failure to thrive, or even obesity. Focus should be given to eating the right foods and the benefits this can bring to children’s lives. The plea from parents was ’tell us why, not why not’ and ‘provide more education and cookery classes about the basics’.”

Rebecca Stevenson, Medical Director for Abbott’s nutrition business in the UK, commented: “Every child needs the right nutrition to grow and thrive. The report by the Patients Association provides a number of recommendations for initiatives and tools to help healthcare professionals and parents address undernutrition, including a national nutritional care pathway for the identification, referral and management of undernourished children. A joined up, multi-sector approach will go a long way to ensuring that children in the UK have access to the nutrition they need to grow and develop so they can lead a fun-filled life.”

Read the full final report