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Parents failing children by not protecting them against killer diseases according to report into Sefton’s public health

PARENTS are putting their children at risk by not getting them immunised against life threatening illnesses.

The shocking revelation comes as a report into Sefton’s public health reveals childhood immunisation levels in the borough are below World Health Organisation targets.

The report also highlights how obesity and poverty are taking their toll on Sefton’s health.

Figures from 2010/11 show how uptake rates for the first set of vaccinations, due on a child’s first birthday, are close to the WHO’s target of 95%. However, while 94.9% of children are immunised on their first birthday, this drops to 93.2% uptake of second birthday jabs and when it comes to the third set of jabs, due on a child’s fifth birthday, the uptake is just 85.3%.

Although the figures sound high, the 95% target set by the WHO is the level regarded to “prevent any sustained circulation of infections, protecting everyone in the population”.

Dr Janet Atherton, the director of public health and author of the report, entitled Protecting the Health of Sefton, puts this into perspective.

She said: “I would encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated when they are invited for their immunisations to give them effective protection from a wide range of avoidable illnesses such as measles, meningitis and whooping cough. Most children recover fully from childhood illnesses but some suffer serious long term complications such as deafness and brain damage, or in rare cases die.”

Earlier this year Merseyside recorded its largest measles outbreak since 1988 with more than 200 cases confirmed.

Dr Atherton urged parents to see their GPs or health visitors in order for their children to have catch up injections, warning: “Most of the children who caught measles in the recent outbreak had not been immunised or only had one dose.”

She also stressed the importance of the flu jab for people with long term conditions such as heart or chest disease, and pregnant women.

Weight is another area for concern, with more than half of adults in Sefton overweight or obese. Worryingly, a quarter of five-year-olds are overweight or obese, rising above the national average to 35% by the age of 11.

Rising obesity has seen more than £2m added to the annual cost of tackling obesity-related hospital admissions in the past four years.

Poverty is also an issue raised by the report, with 10,000 children living in poverty in Sefton.

While most of these children live in south Sefton, there are areas of deprivation around Southport as well. This has an effect on child health with around half of all mothers from deprived areas who breast-feed giving up after six to eight weeks. Youth smoking rates are average but alcohol consumption rates are higher than average, and “levels of alcohol specific hospital stays among those under 18, and smoking in pregnancy are worse than the England average.”

Dr Atherton believes tackling health inequality is crucial: “Narrowing the gap in health remains our biggest health challenge. This year's report focuses on programmes to protect people's health that are freely available to all. We want people to take full advantage of the services available as preventing illness or picking it up and treating it in its early stages is much more likely to be successful.”

While the report reveals concerns, there are positives to take from the state of the borough’s public health.

Dr Atherton said: “Health in Sefton continues to improve. However, there is still a large gap between the health experience of people living in the most deprived and most affluent parts.”

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