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Children's digestive health across Europe in crisis

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Staff writer |
Children's digestive health
Kids   Alarming trends in disease incidence

A report investigating the current state of digestive health in children has revealed alarming trends in disease incidence and inequalities in the provision of digestive healthcare services for children across Europe.

"Paediatric Digestive Health Across Europe", commissioned by United European Gastroenterology (UEG), highlights how the current health burden and economic pressure of paediatric digestive health issues, in particular the increasing levels of childhood obesity, have become a pandemic issue throughout the continent.

The report canvasses the opinion of a number of paediatric GI specialists, including experts from UEG and current and past presidents of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), who highlight three particular areas of digestive health that show worrying trends and require urgent action.

In 46 European countries, one in every three children aged 6-9 years is now overweight or obese. Childhood onset of inflammatory bowel disease now accounts for 20-30% of all IBD cases.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has become the most common cause of chronic liver disease among children and adolescents in Western countries, with cases documented in children as young as 3 years old.

Commenting on the current state of paediatric digestive health care in Europe, Professor Michael Manns, President of UEG, explains; "Across Europe we have leading paediatric experts and many centres of excellence. However, these are not widespread and currently cannot meet the needs of children throughout the continent. This has an impact on not just individuals and their families but on society and wider health service provision".

One of the main findings in the report is that many areas of digestive health follow a 'one size fits all' approach with many children following adult care pathways. Professor Berthold Koletzko, President of ESPGHAN, comments; "It is important for stakeholders and policy makers to appreciate that children have complex physical, psychological and social needs and these must be met by trained paediatric specialists to improve the accessibility of optimal care for children today and in future generations".

The report calls for urgent attention and resource investment in paediatric digestive health treatments and services to improve the prognosis for children who suffer from varying digestive health conditions.

A 6 point action plan, targeting key policy makers, stakeholders and health service providers, is outlined within the report to help encourage and deliver change and improve paediatric care across Europe.

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