UK & World News

  • 1 May 2014, 2:44

Child Deaths 'Disproportionate' Among Poor

High levels of deprivation in the UK mean British children are more likely to die young than those born in other European countries, according to leading children's doctors.

The Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health study warns that cuts related to the financial crisis could make matters worse as children in Britain are already among the most deprived in the EU.

More than 5,300 children died in Britain before the age of 19 in 2012 - 3,000 of them were babies who died before their first birthday.

Public health policies to reduce child deaths are "piecemeal", according to the Why Children Die report.

Although the mortality rate has declined in the last 30 years it is still significantly higher than other European nations, it adds.

The UK has a large number of babies born with a low birth weight and this may be a contributing factor to the mortality rate.

Previous studies have demonstrated a link between underweight infants and mortality.

Injuries are the most frequent cause of death in children after their first year - with unintentional injuries being the most common.

Dr Ingrid Wolfe, lead author of the report and child public health expert, said: "Social and economic inequalities are matters of life and death for children.

"Countries that spend more on social protection have lower child mortality rates.

"The messages are stark and crucial. Poverty kills children. Equity saves lives. Social protection is life-saving medicine for the population."

The report recommends that the national speed limit in built up areas should be reduced to 20mph.

After infancy late adolescence, between the ages of 15 and 19, is the second riskiest time for death amongst children.

Despite improvements in health care and numerous health and safety campaigns, death rates amongst late adolescents have barely fallen over the last forty years.

Suicide among young people still remains a leading cause of death in the UK, with alcohol and drug abuse often a factor.

The report authors say the government needs to increase the price of alcohol and make it more difficult for young people to buy.

Another recommendation is for the government to remove the new cap on welfare spending.

The report also notes that the UK has among the highest rates of child poverty in wealthy European countries.

By the next election in 2015 it is estimated more than four million children will be living in poverty.

The authors claim the government could be doing more and with the right policies many lives could be saved.

It concludes that child survival rates could be improved by reducing inequality and making sure all children whether rich or poor get a good start in life.

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