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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) research call for evaluative research for long-term conditions in children and young people was launched in February 2014 (http://www.themedcalls.nihr.ac.uk/children). This call follows from the recommendation in the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012 entitled ‘Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays’.1 This call is an opportunity to engage a range of different researchers in this relatively under-represented area and thereby help to encourage innovation and increase the quality and capacity for research in children and young people's health.
Improving the health of children and young people is a valuable investment in the nation's future. Today's failure to improve child health outcomes will sow the seeds for tomorrow's burden of ill health. This resonates with a growing understanding of the importance of the life-course approach: early intervention in childhood and adolescence has the potential for profound impact well into adulthood. The current state of child health research2 does not reflect its potential to preserve a healthy population, alter lifelong trajectories of health and well-being, and reduce the future burden to the National Health Service (NHS). The call to research in this area is a welcome attempt to address these shortcomings.
Why focus on long-term conditions in children and young people?
The Annual Report identified that the outcomes for children and young people in England are not as good as they could or should be. International evidence demonstrates plainly that better is possible. For example, England is an extreme outlier with respect to asthma mortality in the under 14s, with almost 25 times higher mortality than the best performing country studied in a recent review.3 Thankfully rare, mortality is all too often one of few …