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Poorer pupils at greater health risk

More than 600 school-age children a year in Aberdeen end up in hospital because of accidents - and most of them live in the poorer areas of the city.

A major health study emphasises that accidents remain the main killer of young people, and those from housing schemes are five times more likely to be struck by a car than children in the affluent suburbs. Many accidents take place in and around the home.

The city's education committee on Tuesday is set to approve a strategy to combat the growing disparity between the rich and poor, the most significant finding of the health study carried out by health co-ordinator,Stephanie Allison. Education is to take the lead in the initiative. (TESS last week)

Road safety remains a prime concern. In 1996, 71 children under the age of 14 were knocked down, some 40 per cent of all pedestrian casualties. Over a three year period up to 1995, some 220 school-age pupils were taken to hospital because of road accidents. Surprisingly, those most at risk are the 11-14 year-olds.

Ms Allison points out that while people in Aberdeen are generally healthier, inequalities are greater with some groups experiencing far higher levels of ill-health and premature death.

Figures show children aged 0-14 with fathers in a lower social class are twice as likely to die early as children born to fathers in a high social class. Other key findings are that 50 per cent of dental decay is found in 10 per cent of the population, 63 per cent of five-year-olds have one or more fillings and 40 per cent of young people aged 12-18 do not eat breakfast. Hospital admissions for alcoholic poisoning among the under-14s are also on the increase. Boys at secondary, on average, drink the equivalent of seven pints of beer a week while girls drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine. They told researchers they like the taste of alcohol, the way it makes you feel, how it helps you relax and to talk to members of the opposite sex.

Jurgen Thomaneck, education vice-convener, said the greatest challenge was to tackle poverty and socio-econo mic deprivation which caused ill-health. "We also need to improve the environmen t in which our children live, learn and play, improve access to health care and other services and help and support our young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle," he stated.

Ms Allison said: "Small incremental changes today can make a real difference tomorrow and begin a process which will result in better health for the next generation."

The city is already training teachers on health issues such as drugs and sex education; trying to raise self-esteem through the Give Kids a Chance anti-drug programme; running The Kids in Condition, an after-school health club; and providing healthy tuck shops and fruit trolleys in schools.

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