A 1,000-day public health challenge has been launched to improve the life chances of babies.
The district’s annual Public Health Report says health problems like heart disease, lung disease and cancer all have their beginnings in early life.
The report, which provides a snapshot of the state of the district’s health, focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, including the first 270 days of pregnancy and the two years after being born.
The report by director of public health Dr Andrew Furber, said unhealthy children were likely to become unhealthy parents.
It calls for action to give the best possible start in life to the 10,000 babies who will be born over the next 1,000 days.
Dr Furber’s report said: “In previous reports I have noted that many of the health and wellbeing challenges facing the district have their origins in early childhood.
“For example, we have high rates of lung cancer in the district much of which is related to smoking.
“Smoking is an addiction which starts in adolescence, and those who take up smoking are much more likely to have grown up in a home where adults smoked.”
The report said babies were disproportionately at risk of abuse and neglect.
Around 26 per cent of babies were living with complex family situations involving substance misuse, mental illness or domestic violence.
It said: “This is not a counsel of despair. Changes later in life can make a real difference. Nor is it a reason to blame parents and carers. Their job is not at all an easy one.
“However it is a reason to look at children’s experiences in these first 1,000 days and see if there is anything we can do to make them better.”
Wakefield Council’s cabinet discussed the report at a meeting on Tuesday. Coun Pat Garbutt, cabinet member for adults and health, said: “Everyone wants the best start for their children.
“This report highlights just how important our earliest experiences in life are in affecting our long term health.”