One In Five Child Deaths Preventable, Research Reveals

One in five child deaths in England is preventable, according to research by the University of Warwick.

Much more could be done to cut future deaths, a new three-part series on child deaths in high-income countries, published in The Lancet, has revealed. The series is led by Dr Peter Sidebotham, Associate Professor of child health at Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick in the UK.

20% of child deaths reviewed in England between 2010 and 2011 (800 of 4,601) were from preventable causes including accidents, suicide, abuse, and neglect.

However, the series reveals that death rates vary widely between and within high income countries and between different age groups. In England and Wales, death rates tend to be higher in the Midlands and north England and lower in the south and east.

"What these variations in mortality tell us is that more could be done to prevent child deaths across all age groups," explained Dr Peter Sidebotham, Series leader and Associate Professor of child health at the University of Warwick in the UK.

"Although some contributing factors are relatively fixed, including a child's age, sex, and genetics, many environmental, social, and health service factors are amenable to interventions that could lessen risks and help prevent future deaths."

The Series highlights a "persistent socioeconomic gradient" for child deaths, with children from deprived backgrounds significantly more likely to die than their wealthier peers. The five high-income countries with the worst child death rates, USA, New Zealand, Portugal, Canada, and the UK, are also those with the widest inequalities in income.

"Much more needs to be done," said Dr Sidebotham. "It needs to be recognised that many child deaths could be prevented through a combination of changes in long-term political commitment, welfare services to tackle child poverty, and health-care services.

"Politicians should recognise that child survival is as much linked to socioeconomic policies that reduce inequality as it is to a country's overall gross domestic product and systems of health-care delivery."


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