Child mortality 'one and half times higher in England than Sweden'

By Julie Griffiths on 04 May 2018 Child Mortality

According to a new study, deaths in children under-five years old occur one and half times more often in England than in Sweden.

The inter-country comparison of child mortality of more than 3.9 million English births and one million Swedish births highlights the need to invest in public health, says the RCM.

Looking at the study findings of the two high-income countries with similar levels of economic development and universal healthcare, 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.

RCM practice and standards professional advisor Mervi Jokinen said that this study 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,’ she said.

‘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,’ added Mervi.

She said that 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,’ she added.

Despite research such as this, Mervi said that 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’.

Access the study published in The Lancet here.