Poor health as a newborn is associated with mortality throughout childhood

New evidence has found a link between poor health as a newborn and mortality up to the age of ten.

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A new study aims to determine patterns and trends in child deaths that may impact- being born prematurely or suffering an injury or infection shortly after birth.

This report draws on National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) data. This report – the third thematic report from the NCMD, uses unique and comprehensive data on child deaths in England. It examines how neonatal health affects child mortality.

To glean insights and lessons from each instance, the study examines deaths reported to the database between 2019 and 2021 and deaths reviewed by specialists throughout that time.

Eighty-three percent of deaths were linked to additional care requirements after birth. But more surprisingly, it shows for the first time that risk persists throughout childhood; although they only make up 15 percent of the population, these children account for 38 percent of deaths aged 1 to 4 years and 27 percent of deaths aged five to nine years.

The article also looks at the variables that could be changed to make things better and offers suggestions for legislators and health professionals. The three most significant modifiable factors identified by the child death review were maternal obesity, smoking during pregnancy, and a lack of involvement from appropriate services. The report’s authors have recommended strengthening current interventions and implementing new ones to address these problems.

Karen Luyt, Professor in Neonatal Medicine at the University of Bristol, NCMD Programme Lead, and the report’s senior author, said: “This report, based on our unique data on child deaths for England, is a tremendously important step in recognizing the paramount importance of neonatal health to overall child mortality. ONS figures show that between 1990 and 2015, the UK made less progress on under-5 mortality than any European country except Malta – but this new insight gives us a chance to work together to focus on improving and saving children’s lives.”

Dr. Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, added“This report is a powerful tool. It gives those of us who feel the pain of guilt after a child’s death the chance to understand how often there are ‘modifiable factors’ at play: up to a third of deaths have factors that could be modified, and in these cases, a different outcome might have been possible. For bedside nurses and doctors, public health doctors, health service planners and commissioners, and politicians, this report presents an opportunity to learn from these tragic cases and consider where interventions might prevent future deaths.”

The report is available on NCMD’s website.