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The United Kingdom is grappling with a sharp increase in stunted growth, hunger and dental issues among its children. IBTimes UK

The United Kingdom is grappling with a sharp increase in stunted growth, hunger and dental issues among its children. This concerning trend has raised significant concerns among experts, highlighting the urgent need for immediate action to address these issues and protect the well-being of the younger generation.

Recent reports indicate that a combination of factors, including economic challenges, disrupted access to healthcare and changes in dietary patterns, have contributed to this worrisome situation. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have only exacerbated the underlying problems, casting a grim shadow over the health and future of British children.

One of the most pressing concerns is the rising rates of stunted growth observed among children across the country.

According to health experts, chronic malnutrition and inadequate intake of essential nutrients are key drivers of this issue.

The prolonged closure of schools, which often serve as crucial sources of balanced meals for many children, has further exacerbated the problem. The absence of regular health check-ups and screenings during the pandemic has also led to delays in identifying growth-related issues.

Sharon White, CEO of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (Saphna) shared their thoughts on the deprivation they encounter every day.

"Children of six, seven, eight shouldn't be stealing food. They shouldn't be worried all day if mummy or daddy has got food, or what they are going to have to eat. Or if they can steal from somebody else's lunch box. But these are the true, living realities for so many of our kids at the minute," she says.

Moreover, hunger has emerged as a distressing reality for a growing number of children in the UK. The disruption caused by the pandemic has severely impacted families, leading to increased unemployment, reduced income and food insecurity.

As a result, an alarming number of children are experiencing hunger on a regular basis, with implications for their physical health, cognitive development and academic performance.

The Saphna report surveyed respondents that were closest to the public health frontline across the UK and revealed that two-thirds of those surveyed had seen an increase in children's health issues related to hunger or poor nutrition over the past year.

Moreover, for more than a quarter of all respondents, the number of incidents had increased "by a large extent" in 12 months and of the 313 respondents, 53 per cent had encountered children who were not putting on weight because of poor nutrition.

"As public health nurses and school nurses, we are supposed to prevent health problems in the first place. But actually, we're having to pull kids out of the fire, rather than stopping them from falling in," says Sharon White.

Students should be taught health education for them to be able to make healthy choices and know how to protect themselves from catching diseases.

Alongside stunted growth and hunger, dental issues have also skyrocketed among UK children. The British Dental Association (BDA) has raised concerns over the lack of access to dental care during the pandemic, as routine check-ups and treatments were postponed or cancelled.

This neglect has contributed to a surge in dental decay, gum disease and related problems, affecting children's overall health and well-being.

Experts emphasise that the consequences of these issues extend far beyond physical health concerns. Stunted growth can impact a child's cognitive development and educational outcomes, while hunger can lead to poor concentration and reduced learning abilities.

Dental issues not only cause pain and discomfort but can also hinder children's confidence, social interactions and overall quality of life.

Restoring and expanding dental services for children is essential to tackle the rising dental issues. This involves promoting regular check-ups, education on oral hygiene and implementing preventive measures to safeguard children's dental health.

Moreover, raising awareness among parents and caregivers about the importance of a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices can play a significant role in combating these challenges.

The distressing surge in stunted growth, hunger and dental issues among UK children demands immediate attention. Addressing the root causes of these problems and implementing effective strategies is vital to safeguard the well-being, future and potential of the younger generation.