Child mortality refers to the death of children under 14 years old. It is also called child death and encompasses neonatal, under-5 and age 5-14 mortality.
It is an important aspect for the world that the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) aims at reducing the mortality rate of the under-five children in the 1990s by two thirds. Many of these children do not need to die because the most causes of child deaths occur because of preventable diseases or condition that include infection and disease. Children in developing countries are at the risk of dying from lack of clean drinking water and malnutrition.
Developed countries might not suffer from lack of resources and services to support proper nutrition, healthcare as well as living conditions that contribute to an increase in child mortality rates. The UK is one of the developed countries that can afford to invest in preventive health care based on behavioral change, cultural and social change with a long-term impact on the lives of children and mothers.
The death rates of infant and child in the UK has been on a decline and continued to fall. The challenge for authorities is that UK child mortality rates are one of the worst western Europe to the point of having close to 2,00 excess deaths annually compared to Sweden which is the best performer. There are still a high number of babies who die within a year of birth. It is a disturbing reversal of the gains by National Health Service in reducing infant mortality over several decades. Health charities, professionals and midwives are among the people who voice a serious concern at the trend of child deaths in England and Wales.
The rate of child deaths rose from 2.6 neonatal deaths per 1,000 births to 2.7 for every 1,000. The infant mortality rate survey shows that deaths within the first year of child's life rose from 3.7 -3.8 for every 1,000 live births within a year. The concerns became rife after an increase two year in a row.
Cause of Child Mortality Less Than 14 Years in the UK
However, there are variations in the mortality rates across the UK meaning that it requires much more effort to ensure that health services give the vulnerable babies a chance for survival. The key area where the UK has an extremely high rate of child mortality is infant and children deaths due to chronic conditions.
Several reports also show that health services always do not deliver optimal care for children and teenagers creating room for loss of lives.
Social inequalities are another factor contributing to death rates. Many of these causes of childhood deaths have a way of preventing them. The main causes of child mortality in the UK are:
1.Low birth weight
Premature birth and low birth weight increase the risk of child mortality mostly because of the lack of prenatal care diminish the growth of the fetus. Mothers who are pregnant without getting any prenatal care should take a step of informing the state health department about lack of medical once they access it to give extra attention in the remaining gestation period. It is essential for NHS to educate the pregnant and sexually active teens about the importance of prenatal care as they are the age group that neglects to attend antenatal care clinics.
A mother’s health status and environment during pregnancy affect the way a fetus develops and pregnancy development. Failing to take good care increases the risk of child mortality due to occurrences such as congenital disabilities, low birth weight, preterm birth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A mother should make an effort to start receiving early and regular prenatal care to promote the best outcome for both the baby and mother.
2.Preterm birth and its outcomes
There is no definitive way of preventing preterm birth the second most frequent cause of infant mortality in some developed countries. Researchers and healthcare providers keep on finding multiple fronts to solve the problem by finding trying methods of stopping preterm labor from progressing to delivery and identifying ways to improve health outcomes for infants born before their time. These infants usually have low birth weight. The cause of preterm birth can be poor nutrition or chronic health conditions. Delivery before time in the previous pregnancy is a risk factor for women in other pregnancies, and they should inform medical practitioners to receive care that will reduce the risks.
3.Congenital disabilities (birth defects)
Congenital disabilities are one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the UK another first world countries such as the United States. Different types of birth defects can even start during pregnancy. Pregnant women can do several things that contribute to reducing the risk of particular birth defects such as taking adequate folic acid before getting pregnant and during pregnancy to prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects.
4.Unsafe Infant sleep environment
The unsafe environment for children can lead to child mortality. It is much riskier for infants who are more likely to get SIDS (sudden infant death) that cause sudden death for infants younger than a year due to unexplainable reason even after thorough investigations. SIDS is a type within a broad category of the causes why infants pass on. They are called SUID sudden unexpected infant death category that includes the other causes of sleep-related deaths. These include accidental suffocation, vehicle collisions, infections, and other unexpected causes.
SIDs has been decreasing in the last few years, but the rate of other sleep-relating causes of infant deaths has been on the rise. Accidental injury, for instance, has risen to become one of the top five causes of infant mortality. There are no definite ways of preventing SIDs, but it is still possible for mothers to reduce their risk as well the causes of other sleep-related causes of death to infants. For instance, removing of toys or other objects from a baby’s sleeping cot, placing a baby on the back when sleeping and loosening the beddings are some of the ways that reduce the risk.
5.Lack of newborn screening
Failing to screen a newborn might cause failure to detect hidden conditions and eventual cause death. Tests after birth help with detection of certain conditions that midwives and doctors who participate in delivery cannot notice at the time. Some of these conditions can quickly cause severe disability and even death if no treatment takes place within a short period of birth. Infants born with some of the conditions that cause child mortality to appear to be in excellent health and may not even be from parents with a family history of the disease.
Screening after birth involves drawing a few drops of blood from the heel of an infant and applying it to a particular paper. The doctor sends the spots for analysis in a laboratory and begins treatment immediately if the test reveals the presence of a condition that causes infant mortality.
Most hospitals in the UK can screen more than 20 conditions. Infants born to parents with a history of specific illnesses that could put their lives at risk or are born with high risk will undergo an additional screening beyond the usual under observance of a health care specialist. Testing to achieve early detection and intervention helps to save the lives of children and improve the quality of their future life.
6.Smoking by the mother during pregnancy
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are putting their fetuses and infants at the risk of adverse outcomes that could cause their death. There is a possibility that children from the lineage of a smoking grandmother will develop childhood asthma.
Cigarettes are especially dangerous for a fetus because they contain an addictive substance known as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and numerous other materials that a smoker inhales from a cigarette. The danger extends to the baby because all these substances directly go to the baby through the bloodstream. Smoking during pregnancy will lower the amount of oxygen that the baby can access and increase the following:
- Heart rate
- Lung and other respiratory problems
- Birth defects
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Premature birth
- Intrauterine growth retardation
- Low birth weight
- Early death
In some instances, smoking mothers during pregnancy give birth to stillborn babies. Those who do not get adverse effects while young still face negative consequences during their subsequent health and development. Mothers who are at the exposure of second-hand cigarette smoke from a smoking partner or other environmental fumes are also more likely to put their unborn babies at risk and give birth to underweight infants with possible health problems. Children born of mothers who smoke during their gestation are at risk of dying from SID syndrome by three times than those whose mothers keep away from during their expectancy. Maternal smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for obesity in early childhood. The chances of a baby getting harm due to smoking during pregnancy increases with the number of cigarettes that a mother smokes. It does not mean that there is a there is a number which someone can term as safe.
Mothers who are at the exposure of second-hand cigarette smoke from a smoking partner or other environmental fumes are also more likely to put their unborn babies at risk and give birth to underweight infants with possible health problems.
Children born of mothers who smoke during their gestation are at risk of dying from SID syndrome by three times than those whose mothers keep away from during their expectancy. Maternal smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for obesity in early childhood.
The chances of a baby getting harm due to smoking during pregnancy increases with the number of cigarettes that a mother smokes. It does not mean that there is a there is a number which someone can term as safe.
Accidental deaths in children at the age of just one year up to 14 years that occur at home are a worrying cause of child mortality. Approximately 60 children under five years die as a result of an accident, and more than 76, 000 under age 14 get treatment in hospital for the same causes. The number is higher for children of fewer than five years by 40% meaning the number of mortality for this age group is also higher. Children of age 0-4 years are at a higher risk of home accidents than other generations. Boys are more likely to get injuries from accidents than girls.
Injuries are another frequent cause of death among the children after the first year of life although the most frequently occur due to unintentional injuries. The failure to reduce the deaths due to intentional injuries among the young people is another reason to cause a pressing concern. Falls account for the most number of accidents. Most severe injuries occur due to falls from a height and heat-related accidents. Other types of accidents that contribute to child mortality are:
Scalds and burns that occur due to exposure to hot items like iron boxes or open flames. Children have sensitive skins those adults which put them at more risk of scalds from hot bath water and beverages.
Poisoning by medicines, cosmetics, and household products that children reach without knowledge of the person caring for them. Strangulation when a child reaches an item that makes a tight loop around the neck or pulls a plastic container over the head to bock inhaling.
8.Neurological and developmental disorders
A neurological disorder is any condition that causes dysfunction in part of the nervous system or brain causing psychological or physical problems. Development of the brain starts during pregnancy continuing through infancy, childhood and up to adolescence. Most of the cells from before birth but the connection between them (neurons) does not develop until infancy. A child with neurological disorders gets developmental difficulties or misses essential milestones.
They cause complications that require lifelong management that is likely to cause death in a child who does not get the right support. Complications during childbirth can cause neurological disorders because the skulls are not entirely formed at this time thus exposing the brain to physical injuries. Supply o oxygen and blood from the umbilical cord can also be affected during birth causing a deprivation to the brain and causing damage.
Exposure by the mother to toxins can also cause neurological disorders because they can reach and damage the developing system of the baby through the placenta. Other causes of neurological disorders that are likely to cause mortality death include:
- Chromosome abnormalities
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Immune disorders
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries
- Premature and low birth weight
- Postnatal infections
9.Shortage of midwives
The kind of care that a baby receives soon after birth has many contributions to the health status after that. The UK like other countries has a shortage of midwives which lowers the quality of care as the few available attend to a higher number of patients. It prevents them from giving much attention as necessary to each infant who could make them miss a crucial observation that may have revealed a presence of a condition that can put lives at risk. Midwives work for long hours which can cause a lapse in concentration which is a crucial factor in ensuring safe delivery and detection of life-threatening conditions.
There are various causes of child mortality under 14 years in the UK, but the above are the most common. Other causes of child death such as suicide due to depression, homicide and auto accidents are also contributors but too small extent.