Less affluent areas have seen an ‘unprecedented’ rise in infant mortality over the last four years, reveals a shock new report.
Poverty has been linked to a drastic impact on the likelihood of child survival in England.
Researchers found that from 2014 to 2017 there were 572 excess infant deaths than what would have been previously expected based on trends.
The team from the Universities of Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle grouped 324 local authorities into five categories based on how affluent or deprived they were.
They found a ‘sustained and unprecedented’ rise in infant mortality from 2014 to 2017 that was not experienced evenly across the population.
In the most deprived areas, infant mortality rose – leading to an additional 24 infant deaths per 100,000 live births per year, according to the findings published in BMJ Open.
Study lead author Professor David Taylor-Robinson, of Liverpool University, said: “This study provides evidence that the unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country, leaving the more affluent areas unaffected.
“Our analysis also linked the recent increase in infant mortality in England with rising child poverty, suggesting that about a third of the increase in infant mortality from 2014-17 may be attributed to rising child poverty.
“These findings are really concerning given that child poverty is rising. It is time for the government to reverse this trend establishing a welfare system that protects 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. In the context of increasing health inequalities in England, policies that reduce poverty and social inequalities are likely to reduce the occurrence of infant mortality and that of many other adverse child health outcomes.”
Dr Paul Norman, of the University of Leeds, added: “The data shows us an unprecedented rise in the deaths of children under one year of age, but our next step is to examine the gestational age and the number of weeks at which infants die, to learn more about when key interventions may be needed or when they are being missed.
“This will inform the urgent action needed by national and local governments, and help drive the health and social care policies needed to reduce infant mortality rates.”