News ID: 232804
Published: 0846 GMT October 15, 2018

Infant mortality in England, Wales could soar without action, study warns

Infant mortality in England, Wales could soar without action, study warns

Infant mortality rates in England and Wales could be 140 percent higher than in comparable wealthy countries by 2030 without concerted action, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warned.

The group also said that mental health problems and A&E attendances among children and young people will soar by the end of the next decade without a properly funded strategy, reported.

The infant mortality rate in England and Wales has risen for two consecutive years after more than a century of continuous improvement. The college said it is already 30 percent above the median rate across 15 EU countries, along with Australia, Canada and Norway (the EU15+), but the difference will widen if the current trend in England and Wales is maintained.

Even if it begins to decline again at its previous rate, it will still be 80 percent higher than the EU15+ in 12 years’ time, the college forecasts.

If trends continue, it also predicts that mental health problems among children and young people in England will increase 60 percent by 2020, while emergency department attendances rise by 50 percent.

A report by the college, entitled Child Health in 2030 in England and published on Monday, acknowledged that policy programs are already in place to tackle some of the issues highlighted, but warns its predictions could be underestimates given child poverty is expected to increase by 40 percent over the next decade.

Professor Russell Viner, the report’s author and college president, said, “Unless current trends improve, England is likely to fall further behind countries of similar wealth over the next decade, making it harder to give children the best start in life, [and ensure they] receive the care they need and remain healthy into productive, happy adult lives.

“This report clearly identifies the danger on the horizon — but trends shown here are not inevitable. Each of them could be turned around if key actions are undertaken.”

In better news, Vine found that England had made excellent progress in diabetes control and smoking, with decline in the latter among young people in England among the most rapid in the EU15+. It predicts smoking in this group will be negligible by 2030 if current trends continue.

However, the UK had higher proportions of women smoking during pregnancy than most EU15+ countries — a key risk factor for infant mortality. The UK also has higher proportions of young mothers and lower breastfeeding rates, both also key risk factors for infant mortality.

Higher mortality was also found for preventable causes of death among older children and young people, including common infections and chronic respiratory conditions.

The report said poverty lies at the root of many other risk factors for infant mortality and all of child health. Both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing responded with calls for greater funding.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said, “Improving children’s mental and physical health is a key priority for this government and will be pivotal in our long-term plan for the NHS, which we’re backing with additional funding of an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023-24.”



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