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Foundation welcomes important report on child deaths in the UK

Foundation welcomes important report on child deaths in the UK

01 May 2014

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) welcomes the publication of a two part report today, 1 May 2014, which reviews the causes of childhood deaths in the UK and recommends how to tackle child mortality in England.

Why Children Die: death in infants, children and young people is jointly published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the National Childrens’ Bureau (NCB). It reviews the causes of childhood mortality UK and demonstrates that the UK has 45% more child deaths per 100,000 population than Europe’s best performing country for child mortality, Sweden.

Accounting for population differences, this translates to an additional five deaths per day in the UK. It also found that the vast majority of child deaths in the UK occur in the under 1’s and disproportionally affect the most disadvantaged in society.

In part B of the report, the RCPCH and NCB have developed a series of recommendations to tackle child mortality in England. If implemented, MRF expect these to have a positive effect on the incidence of bacterial meningitis, the treatment of children who suffer from these diseases and the monitoring of the success of preventative interventions. We therefore warmly welcome these recommendations, particularly:

  • Recommendations on tackling child poverty - because social deprivation is associated with a higher incidence and severity of meningococcal disease
  • Recommendations around tailoring the health system to the needs of infants, children and young people - because bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia are diseases which primarily affect children
  • The establishment of a national database to collect data on child mortality which is comparable with data collected from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland; we need to keep records of child death by cause to help identify whether interventions such as vaccinations and improved treatment protocols are working
  • Recommendations around reducing the incidence of smoking in pregnancy and the exposure of young children to cigarette smoke - because children who are exposed to cigarette smoke are at increased risk of developing meningococcal disease
  • Early identification of mental health difficulties to be a core capacity of all health, social care and educational professionals who work with children - because around one third of childhood survivors of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia are left with subtle yet clinically significant deficits including psychological disorders, which can affect academic performance and behaviour at school
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia remain a leading infectious cause of death in childhood but MRF hope that these recommendations, along with the recent positive JCVI recommendation for the routine use of MenB vaccine for UK infants, will in time make this statement one for the history books.


Becky Pierce-Jones

Becky Pierce-Jones

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