More than 700 ‘avoidable’ child deaths every year linked to deprivation, report finds
New analysis from the National Child Mortality Database finds hundreds of child deaths linked to social deprivation could be avoided.
A new report has found more than 700 child deaths linked to social deprivation could have been avoided.
The report, which is based on data for children who died between April 2019 and March 2020 in England, finds a “clear association” between the risk of child death and the level of deprivation – for all categories of death except cancer.
The analysis finds that over a fifth of all child deaths might be avoided if children living in the most deprived areas had the same mortality risk as those living in the least deprived – translating to over 700 fewer children dying per year in England.
The report was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of NHS England, and includes analysis of 3,347 children who died in England between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. Researchers investigated the characteristics of their deaths to identify if socio-economic deprivation is associated with childhood mortality.
Researchers found that the most common age at death was less than 1 year (63%) and more boys than girls died (56.5% vs 43.5%), while the majority of children who died lived in urban areas (87.8%).
By linking each child’s address to the Government’s measure of deprivation – calculated using seven indicators of: income, employment, education, health, crime, access to housing and services, and living environment – researchers determined that child mortality increased as deprivation increased.
Professor Karen Luyt, National Child Mortality Database Programme Lead, said the analysis shows what can be achieved when the sector pools its knowledge in order to learn lessons at a national level.
“We now ask that everyone involved in planning and delivering child health or social care services implement strategies to reduce social deprivation.”
For deaths that were reviewed by a Child Death Overview Panel as part of the national Child Death Review (CDR) process, researchers found that – of a total 2,738 child deaths reviewed between 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 – a significant 98% were able to be linked to Government deprivation measures.
The report’s authors are now calling on policy makers and those involved in planning and commissioning public health services as well as health and social care professionals to use the data in this report to develop, implement and monitor the impact of strategies and initiatives to reduce social deprivation and inequalities.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of UCL Institute of Health Equity, reiterated the need to reduce social deprivation and inequality, saying: “In a rich society, deprivation should be avoidable – particularly the kind that leads to deaths of infants and children.”
The recommendations are timely, given a separate report released by the Trussell Trust which showed that people forced to food banks at the start of the pandemic faced extreme poverty, with just £248 a month to survive on after housing costs.
The report found that single parent families are more likely to be forced to a food bank, with almost one in five (18%) households referred to food banks during the pandemic being single parents – more than twice the rate in the general population (8%).
In early 2020, the Trussell Trust says 95% of people referred to food banks in their network were living in ‘destitution’ – meaning they cannot afford to eat and stay warm and dry.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said people are pushed to the doors of food banks because they do not have enough money to survive.
“We know we can change this. We need to change the conversation around poverty and take action together. We need government at all levels to commit to ending the need for food banks once and for all and to develop a plan to do so,” Revie said.
Read the NCMD report (PDF): https://www.ncmd.info/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/NCMD-Child-Mortality-and-Social-Deprivation-report_20210513.pdf
Read ‘The State of Hunger 2021’: www.trusselltrust.org
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