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More than half of seven year-olds have at least one long standing health condition

More than half of seven-year-olds living in Northern Ireland have at least one long standing health condition.
Marie Louise McConville

MORE than half of seven-year-olds living in Northern Ireland have at least one long standing health condition, new research has found.

A report from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) found that more than a quarter of seven-year-old children (26 per cent) suffered from eczema while asthma affected 22.9 per cent.

In addition, 16.8 per cent of the age group had a sight condition requiring treatment while 8.3 per cent had a hearing issue.

The report also found that boys in the age group are 1.7 times more likely than girls to experience asthma or asthma-like symptoms.

The report's findings were calculated based on the health of 1,370 children, and their families, when children were aged seven-years-old.

The report also found that such health conditions were unequally distributed among the population due to factors such as socio-economic conditions, carer health, educational attainment of carers and differences in maternal health behaviours.

According to Lorraine Fahy, from the IPH, who was lead author of the report, the research indicated that "having a primary carer with a long standing condition was linked to a higher risk of a child having a condition".

"Maternal smoking during pregnancy was also linked to higher prevalence of asthma," she said.

"Children whose mother smoked during pregnancy were 1.8 times more likely to have asthma/asthma symptoms. Socio-economic factors also played a role as well as differences in educational attainment of the primary carer. The report also calls for more uniform measures of children's health conditions to enable better comparisons across studies".

Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer in Northern Ireland, said the report provided "a valuable insight into the prevalence of long standing health conditions among seven-year-olds".

"These conditions can have a significant impact on children, their families and the health services required to manage them," he said.

"Identifying risk factors can help us design effective early interventions and management strategies to help ensure better health outcomes for these children".

Professor Kevin Balanda, IPH Director of Research, said: "The findings show long standing conditions including asthma and eczema are quite common among seven-year-old children in Northern Ireland".

"We are increasingly aware of the lifelong benefits of a healthy start in life and these findings show it is important to address the underlying causes of these conditions to enable more children to have a healthy start".

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