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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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2.5 Macrosystem: society

This impacts on health, and can include the country or part of the world where a child lives. Climate change, air pollution and pandemics are global issues that impact on everybody’s health but can have a disproportionate impact on young children. There are economic, political and geographic factors that can all influence children’s health, and in many cases these factors can interrelate. Countries that are unstable politically impact on children and their health, many countries of the world that are war-torn recruit children as soldiers, this abuse of children has negative effects on the mental and physical health of children.

As already mentioned, the most profound negative impact on children’s health is living in poverty. This is the case whether a child is living in poverty in a high income country, such as England, or living in a low income country such as many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In many countries, very young children are part of the workforce and are routinely involved in heavy and dangerous physical work, such as mining and construction. Exposure to strenuous activity, excessive noise, toxic substances and dust can all have negative impacts on growing and still developing bodies.

A country’s policies relating to health for children influences the services that are funded and available. Health services that are accessible and affordable are essential to promote good health. However, many people live in remote parts of the planet, and therefore travelling to access health services that provide immunisations may be difficult for some parents.

The infrastructure and geography of a country impacts on children’s health, for example the availability of clean water and sanitation. Areas of the world that are prone to extreme weather conditions such as flooding can affect sanitation and the safe preparation of food for children. Areas of the world that are prone to events such as earthquakes, such as New Zealand, have shown to have a negative impact on young children’s mental health.

A photograph showing the devastation caused by an earthquake
Figure 6 Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand

This section has summarised a range of different factors that can and do influence children’s health. Although the factors have been separated out, it’s important to remind ourselves that many factors will over lap and can’t always be easily separated out. It’s also important to bear in mind that each child and their view of health is influenced by their age, stage of development, and their personal experiences. Therefore, each child can be regarded as being unique. To move back to considering the individual child, the next section explores the views about health expressed by Oscar, an eight-year-old boy.