Child deaths at lowest level since records began

The number of babies and children who died in England and Wales in 2020 has reached the lowest level in 40 years, figures show.

There were 2,226 infant deaths and 789 child deaths aged between one and 15 in 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Eleven implicated coronavirus as the underlying cause, while two had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificates, accounting for 1% of child deaths that year.

Birth defects, deformities and chromosomal abnormalities remain the leading cause of death in children aged 28 days to 15 years, followed by neoplasms.

The ONS said the 2020 figures are the lowest numbers of infant and child deaths since records began in 1980.

The infant mortality rate for the past year was 7.0 deaths per 100,000 population of the same age.

It has “steadily declined” from a rate of 33.0 per 100,000 in 1981.

The mortality rate for babies under the age of one over the past year (the infant mortality rate) was 3.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, the figures show.

This has remained relatively stable since 2014, part of an overall general decline over the past four decades.

This likely reflects general improvements in health care, and more specifically in antenatal and neonatal care.

The infant mortality rate was highest in the West Midlands (5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births) and lowest in the East and South West (2.9 per 1,000)

The mortality rate for babies under 28 days old (the neonatal mortality rate) was 2.7 deaths per 1,000 live births – which has remained stable since 2016.

Black babies had the highest neonatal and infant mortality rates.

The neonatal mortality rate for black Caribbean babies was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 2.1 per 1,000 for white British babies.

In 2020, the 10% most deprived areas in England had higher infant mortality rates than the 10% least deprived areas.

There were 3.8 stillbirths per 1,000 births in 2020, unchanged from the previous year.

The government’s ambition is to halve the stillbirth rate by 2025 compared to 2010, to 2.6 per 1,000 births.

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