Mortality in children under five is 50% higher in England compared with Sweden. That’s the finding of an inter-country comparison of child mortality including more than 3.9 million English births and a million Swedish births.
The authors of the study, published in The Lancet, say Sweden’s lower mortality rates should be achievable within the United Kingdom but are hindered by a more unequal distribution of wealth in this country, leading to poorer maternal health during pregnancy, with consequences for childhood mortality.
In the analysis of date, mortality in children aged 2 days to 4 years was 29 deaths per 10,000 children in England vs 19 deaths per 10,000 children in Sweden. The differences were mainly driven by differences in mortality among children aged less than 1 year. Achieving rates similar to Sweden would have equated to 607 fewer child deaths per year in England.
The authors say public health interventions will be important to help improve the health of mothers before and during pregnancy, as well as reducing socioeconomic disadvantage overall.
“While child deaths are still rare, the UK has one of the highest child mortality rates in western Europe,” said lead author Dr. Ania Zylbersztejn from Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, UK. “Families need to be better supported before and during pregnancy to improve maternal health, and in turn to give all children a healthy start in life.”