New report highlights steps to reduce child mortality

Posted on July 14, 2022

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Bliss responds to the latest report from the National Child Mortality Database, The Contribution of Newborn Health to Child Mortality across England.

The new report from the National Child Mortality Database sought to investigate how illness around the time of birth affects the health of children up to the age of ten, and to draw out learning and recommendations for service providers and policymakers. The report reveals stark findings about how neonatal conditions affects a baby's chance of survival.

While perinatal mortality overall has reduced in recent years, this report shows clearly that neonatal conditions – including being born premature – cast a long shadow over childhood mortality up to the age of ten; and therefore cast a long shadow over the lives of the babies who experience these conditions, and their families.

Key findings from the report show:

  • Poor newborn health contributes to 72 per cent of all deaths under ten years of age.
  • Children who received neonatal care made up 83 per cent of children who died before their first birthday, 38 per cent of deaths in the next four years, and 27 per cent of deaths between the ages of five and nine.
  • For babies born alive, at or after 22 weeks’ gestation, who subsequently died before ten years of age between 2019 - 2021, around half of the deaths occurred in children over one month old.
  • There is a clear association between childhood death following neonatal illness and learning disabilities. Over half of the children who died also had learning disabilities.
  • Where deaths were found to be caused by a perinatal event, the majority (78 per cent) were caused by prematurity-related conditions. 13 per cent were caused by perinatal asphyxia, 4 per cent were caused by a perinatally acquired infection, and 4 per cent were due to other causes.
  • Modifiable factors were identified in 34 per cent of the deaths reviewed. The most common were smoking in pregnancy, lack of involvement of appropriate services, and maternal obesity.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss, said: “It is vital that we all do more to identify and address the health inequalities inherent in the system which mean that some babies are consistently at significantly more risk of being born pre-term, or of higher rates of neonatal mortality.

“We know a lot about what works to address many of the issues identified in the report – such as the best interventions to prevent pre-term birth, optimise the care of babies who are born prematurely, and reduce the incidence and impact of brain injury around birth. However, best practice is not being delivered consistently, and this report must provide urgent renewed momentum to deliver improvements in this critical area of healthcare”.

Read the full findings of the report here.

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