Research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Journal today shows that mortality rates of children under five in the UK are nearly double that of Sweden.
The researchers attributed this to a higher prematurity rate, and higher frequencies of congenital abnormalities and infections.
According to UNICEF, child death rate is considered to be a barometer of children’s health, but the child death rate in the UK is one of the worst in Western Europe.
The researchers specifically chose to compare with Sweden because it has comparable levels of economic and social development, and they spend the same proportion of its gross domestic product on healthcare.
Bliss Chief Executive Caroline Davey said: “This research should serve as a wake-up call to the government to focus their attention on reducing death rates for babies and young children in the UK . The disparity in mortality rates due to premature birth is staggering and must prompt urgent action and investment in services for pregnant women and those babies born early.
“Recent research has shown that babies born to mothers living in poverty are 57 per cent more likely to be stillborn or die in the neonatal unit. Along with the evidence in this report, this highlights the need for a radically different approach to identifying and supporting women who are at risk of having a premature or sick baby.
“We must use this as an opportunity to learn lessons from Sweden and identify areas for improvement in the care of babies and pregnant women in the UK.”
If you would like to read more about the research, visit the Archives of Disease in Childhood website. You can also see news coverage of the research in the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Mirror.