Social Justice

Poverty is driving a spike in infant mortality across England

Researchers found a consistent and "unprecedented" rise in infant deaths across deprived areas between 2014-2017

The decline in infant mortality has been reversed in the poorest parts of England – which experts say is partly a result of soaring child poverty.

A study published in BMJ Open showed that between 2014-2017 there were an extra 24 infant deaths per 100,000 live births per year. This is a total of 572 more deaths than usual.

However the most well-off areas were “unaffected” by the rise in deaths.

Professor David Taylor-Robinson led the team of Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle University researchers. He said around a third of the increase could be attributed to rising child poverty.

“The unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country,” he said.

The researcher described the findings as “really concerning”, and said it is time for the government to reverse the trend by improving the welfare system to protect children from poverty.

“We know that child poverty has a myriad of adverse impacts on other aspects of child health that will have repercussions for decades to come,” he added. “Policies that reduce poverty and social inequalities are likely to reduce the occurrence of infant mortality.”

It is unusual to see infant mortality rising in countries as wealthy as the UK – and it can be seen an early indicator of how health is changing in a society.

Helen Barnard, deputy director of policy & partnerships for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “We cannot stand by while a child born in the wealthiest parts of our country can expect nearly two decades longer of healthy life than a child born in the most deprived parts. We need to see action to solve poverty.”

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