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Call for free vitamins for all children, world stroke epidemic 'looming' and are the risks of taking aspirin daily being overlooked?

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 24 October

In all the headlines this morning is the call from the government’s Chief Medical Officer for free vitamins to be given to all children, to help combat the return of rickets. In a report on the state of children’s health with big implications for GPs – see elsewhere on Pulse and here – Professor Dame Sally Davies highlighted that the Victorian era disease is back, with 40% of children suffering from vitamin D deficiency.  And she said the country should be ‘profoundly ashamed’ child mortality rates in poor areas are three times higher than in richer regions.

NICE is currently doing a cost-effectiveness analysis of offering free vitamins to all children – rather than the most deprived – which involves giving children up to five years of age vitamin D, A and C.

In more gloomy news, experts are warning of a ‘looming world epidemic’ of stroke, after the number of young people suffering stroke leapt a ‘startling’ 25% over two decades. According to researchers writing in The Lancet, a third of all strokes now occur in 20-64-year-olds and one in every 200 cases now happens in the under-20s, The Independent reports. Meanwhile, the paper says, another report in The Lancet Global Health shows huge disparities in survival from stroke between the richer populations and the less well off. In the UK, the poorest areas had stroke death rates three times higher than the richest.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said that the report revealed ‘shocking disparity’ between rich and poor.

‘These new findings lay bare the formidable challenge facing local health services, not only in the UK, but also in countries around the world, to tackle a looming stroke epidemic…’ he said. ‘To help close this health inequality gap, we need more investment in stroke prevention and research.’

And the Daily Telegraph has a report on the risks of daily aspirin. Researchers said taking aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other diseases was linked to a 37% increase in gastrointestinal bleeding and a 32-38% higher risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Aileen Clarke, Professor of Public Health Research at Warwick University, said: ‘There is an incredibly fine balance between the possible benefits and the risks of the intervention. ‘We need to be extremely careful about over-promoting aspirin intervention without having first fully understood these negative side effects.’

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