‘Study highlights the pressing need to invest in public health’ says RCM on new Lancet study

By RCM on 03 May 2018 England Public Health The Lancet Study Child Mortality Sweden

A new study published today by The Lancet  which compares child mortality in England and Sweden – two high-income countries with similar levels of economic development and universal healthcare seeks  to understand factors driving higher rates of child mortality in England.

Deaths in children under-5 years old occur one and half times more often in England than in Sweden, according to an inter-country comparison of child mortality including more than 3.9 million English births and 1 million Swedish births, published in The Lancet.

According to the study the difference is largely due to children in England typically weighing less at birth, being born earlier, and having more birth anomalies (such as congenital heart defects) than in Sweden.
The authors say that public health interventions to help improve the health of mothers before and during pregnancy, as well as reducing socioeconomic disadvantage overall, will be important to improve the health of babies at birth and increase their survival

Commenting on the research, Mervi Jokinen, Practice and Standards Professional Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said; “This is further evidence about the often tragic impact of inequality in the UK and about the need to reduce these inequalities.  It highlights the pressing need to invest in public health to prevent deaths that could perhaps be avoided. There are efforts being made for example in Wales and Scotland where their Governments are both taking a strong stance in seeking to address the issue of health inequalities.

“The RCM has persistently highlighted this issue and stressed the importance of having good public health systems in place, and the key role that midwives have in promoting public health. We need to see much more robust policies for pregnant women and the early years to reduce the impact of deprivation.

“There may also be scope here for the UK to learn from Sweden where midwives have a strong pre-conception role which on the whole is not the case in the UK. Schools in Sweden also have sessions from midwives for boys and girls promoting family planning and how to be in the best possible health for pregnancy and parenthood. They are seen vital for early prevention of illnesses later in life.

“Despite research such as this we are seeing cuts to public health budgets in England which flies in the face of the evidence about its benefits, and indeed, the need to invest even more in preventing ill health and potentially saving lives.”



To contact the RCM Media Relations Team call 020 7312 3456 or email [email protected].


The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/