Lower Speed Limits Will Improve Child Health

14 October 2015, 10:30 | Updated: 14 October 2015, 10:32

Lower speed limits in built up areas should be introduced by the Scottish Government to help improve children's health, according to doctors.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) believes that introducing a 20mph speed limit in built up areas will promote safe play and encourage children to walk, scoot or cycle to school.

The measure is set out in its Vision 2016 manifesto ahead of next year's Holyrood elections.

It calls for "bold policies'' to make child health in Scotland "comparable to the best in the world''.

Other proposals include implementing minimum unit pricing for alcohol and developing education programmes for parents on the dangers of alcohol use in pregnancy.

The RCPCH also wants the Government to commission high quality research dedicated to interventions to reduce inequalities, ensure access to grants and advice for families most in need, and increase the amount spent on child mental health services.

Over a quarter of Scottish children are overweight or obese, it says.

Dr Peter Fowlie, officer for Scotland for the RCPCH, said: "Whilst our nation has much to be proud of when it comes to improving children's health, it still has some of the poorest health outcomes in Western Europe, particularly relating to child obesity and child mortality levels.

"Deprivation is often at the root of the problem with children living in poverty more likely to be overweight or obese, be born with low birth weight and have parents that smoke heavily or drink alcohol.

"It's clear we need to take action to reduce child health inequalities and a child health strategy which cuts across all Government departments could do that. We call on Government to work with us to develop this.

"In addition, we have today launched our Vision for Scotland and call on the next Scottish government to be bold and use its devolved powers to implement a minimum price for alcohol and develop education programmes for parents on the dangers of alcohol and drug use during pregnancy.

"I want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up. Only by targeting interventions at those most in need will we begin to achieve this.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government's priority is to ensure that all children have the best possible start in life but we know there remains much to do.

"We aim to ensure that all women have access to maternity services before 12 weeks of pregnancy so women can access a range of services tailored to their individual health and wellbeing needs as early as possible in pregnancy.''

She added: "We have made absolutely clear this Government's commitment to introducing minimum unit pricing to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities.

"And we are committed to encouraging initiatives that cut speed, particularly near schools, in residential areas and other areas where there is a significant volume of pedestrian or cyclist activity, as outlined in the good practice guide on 20mph speed restrictions we published earlier this year.''