Starting Well: Young People and Families

There are over 7,000 births per annum in Devon. Average age at birth is increasing with the rate of births to mothers aged 40 above the rate in under 20 year olds which is showing a gradual decrease. Inequalities in health start before birth. Whilst life expectancy at birth is above the national average and improving for Devon as a whole, there is a 15 year gap between the wards with the shortest (Ilfracombe Central, 74.6 years) and longest (Newton Poppleford and Harpford, 89.6 years) average life expectancies. Major differences are also seen in breast feeding rates, the number of women smoking during pregnancy, accident and emergency attendances, emergency hospital admissions and educational attainment. Levels of excess weight in childhood (overweight or obese) have been relatively stable over recent years, with levels above the national average at age four to five and below the national average at age 10 to 11. Teenage conception rates have fallen over recent years, but significant differences still exist with higher rates in more deprived areas. Common mental health problems in childhood include depression, generalised anxiety disorder, eating disorders and hyperactivity, along with post-traumatic stress disorder seen particularly in relation to cases of sexual and physical abuse. Rates of admissions for self-harm and levels of mental difficulties in looked after children are above the national average in Devon. Child Sexual Exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of children and work is focused locally on identifying victims and working to prevent future cases in Devon. Domestic violence and abuse affects many families in Devon with children and young people present in over a third (36%) of incidents reported to police in 2013-14.

This section looks at health and wellbeing issues which affect infants and children through to young adults. Some issues are specific to particular stages in childhood, whilst others may manifest first during childhood or have the greatest impact at a younger age. Experiences in childhood can shape behaviour throughout life so establishing a good foundation in this stage is vital. Data in this section can help identify priorities to help reduce inequalities experienced in the early years between different geographic areas and different socio-economic groups.