Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

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

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3.1 Childhood poverty in inner-city Birmingham

In Jane Payler’s video in Session 2, she discusses the poor health of children in the central Birmingham area in the 1980s. To explore the impact of poverty on children’s health 40 years on, we returned to the area and visited a Children’s Centre in the inner city of Ladywood in Birmingham. In the following video, Dr Helen Lyndon talks about the influence of the environment on children’s health.

Activity 2 The effect of the environment on children’s health

Timing: 15 minutes

As you watch the video, consider the following questions:

  1. What, if anything, has changed in Ladywood since the 1980s?
  2. How does Helen describe the effect of the environment on children’s health?
  3. What are the contemporary health issues affecting children’s health?
Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript | Hide transcript
Video 1 Interview with Dr Helen Lyndon, the Centre for Research in Early Childhood, Birmingham UK
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


In the video, Helen talks about the influence of the environment on the health of young children. She describes how housing has changed over the years, the demolition of poor housing, for example, the back-to-back houses that were built in the 1800s to accommodate the large increases in population during the Industrial Revolution that started more than 200 years ago. In the 1950s, they were replaced with high rise tower blocks, and even though they had individual indoor toilets, baths and running water, they were not conducive to healthy living. The regeneration of the Ladywood area during this century has improved housing and the outdoor areas, making them more hospitable places in which to live. There has been increased awareness of the importance of outdoor spaces for children. Many Local Authorities have invested in improving play areas, an example of such a playground is illustrated in Figure 3.

Helen talks about the introduction of the clean air zone in the area surrounding Ladywood. The aim of the clean air zone is to reduce the emissions from cars by deterring drivers from going into heavily populated and busy areas of a built-up city. However, the cost of driving into the clean air zone is targeted on older cars, which are more likely to be owned by people on low incomes, consequently, the clean air zone fee is more likely to have a negative impact on poorer people.

Contemporary child health issues in Ladywood

Ladywood remains an area of high deprivation despite the regeneration that happened from the 1990s onwards. Birmingham has 28 per cent of families living in poverty, however this number is as high as 50 per cent in Ladywood. The higher rate of infant mortality and the higher number of babies who are born with a low birth weight indicates that poverty remains a threat to babies’ lives, and low birth weight can have a negative impact on children across their lifespan. This is a situation that is similar to the 1980s as described in Session 2.

Other contemporary health issues that affect children include increased obesity and higher levels of children living with poor mental health and mental health difficulties. These conditions will be explored in greater depth in Session 4.

A photograph of an outdoor space
Figure 6 The importance of well-maintained open spaces in urban areas