Last month the chief medical officer for England, Sally Davies, published her annual report on the state of the public’s health. This followed a companion report published in October 2013 that focused on the health of children.
Naturally, the review expresses concern about the physical and mental health of children, both in the aggregate and particularly in its unequal distribution across social classes and geographical areas. A 'prevention versus cure' metaphor often favoured by public health professionals is that rather than wait to fish out bodies from the stream to cure people of their illnesses, better to go up stream and prevent people falling in in the first place. Children are effectively the 'upstream' versions of adults, so there is a strong public health argument for investing in healthy behaviours in children. But how has children’s health, and particularly their health related lifestyle behaviours, changed over time?