Changing the conversation about health

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green: Covid-19 has had a damaging effect on children – but there is an opportunity to ‘re-set’

Children may be more resistant to Covid-19 but the pandemic has still had a disproportionate effect on their lives, says Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, a member of the College of Medicine’s Scientific Advisory Council and former UK Children’s Commissioner.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Sir Al, who has written a chapter in the College of Medicine’s forthcoming manifesto on children’s health, suggests that disrupted education, social isolation and a lack of opportunity for sport and play coupled with rises in domestic and child abuse, and obesity, have potential lifelong implications for this generation of young people.

Writing in the BMJ this month, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green says social isolation, a lack of physical sport and rises in child abuse are among the negative effects experienced by children during the pandemic (Credit: Pixabay/Muscat_coach)

Children in the UK continue to have some of the worst outcomes in the developed world for health, education, social care, justice, and poverty. The expert writes: “Far from being a leveller, the pandemic is exacerbating the widening social inequality exposed by Sir Michael Marmot.

Former UK Children’s Commissioner, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, has written a chapter on children’s health for the College of Medicine’s forthcoming manifesto, published in January

“Children seem more resistant to Covid-19 infection, but have suffered disproportionately from 2020’s lockdowns: school closures, isolation, loss of education continuity, denial of play and sport, with soaring domestic violence, child abuse, and obesity.”

He adds: “The pandemic has also had deleterious impacts on children’s health services.

“Particularly vulnerable children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities, and in the criminal justice system may be faring worst.”

However, the former President of the British Medical Association also finds optimism in the crisis, saying there have been some positives, including ‘greater family cohesion, home learning, and imaginative online study.’

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, author of 2018 book The British Betrayal of Childhood, suggests a number of steps to ‘re-set’ childhood post Covid, including appointing a cabinet level secretary of state for babies, children, young people, and families and “mapping” children’s lives from data routinely collected to help aid better outcomes.