UK's child mortality shocks researchers, 3,800 under-five deaths in 2013


The United Kingdom may have low child mortality rate when compared with many countries worldwide but in comparison with countries in Western Europe, the number of children dying in the UK appears to be higher than in almost every country in the region.

A study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development revealed that mortality rate of children below five years old in the U.K is nearly five deaths per 1,000 births. In 2013 alone, there were 3,800 under-five deaths in the UK shocking researchers of the study themselves as the country has been leading in public health advances for years.

"The higher than expected child death rates in the UK are a reminder to all of us that, even as we are seeing child mortality decline worldwide, countries need to examine what they are doing to make sure more children grow into adulthood," said study author Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

The study, which analyzed global progress in reducing child mortality, shows that in Western Europe, UK only managed to outrank Malta, a country way behind it in terms of wealth, in preventing deaths in children below five years old. It also ranked behind poorer countries such as Greece and Cyprus.

Figures from the study "Global, regional, and national levels of neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality during 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013" which were published in The Lancet May 2, also showed that the rate of under-five mortality in the UK is more than twice the rate of Iceland, which has the lowest mortality rate at just over two deaths per 1,000 births.

Based on analyses of child mortality rates by age category, UK also emerged to have the worst death rate in almost all other countries in Western Europe for children below six days old and children between 29 and 364 days old. It also has the worst mortality rate in children between one and four years old.

The child mortality rate worldwide has declined since 1990. "In 30 developing countries, decreases since 2000 have been faster than predicted attributable to income, education, and secular shift alone," the researchers reported but while the rate of child deaths per 1,000 births also went down in the UK, the decline has significantly slowed down in the past decade.

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