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Mortality rates for children and youth improving

Media Release 23 September 2008

Mortality rates for children and young people improving

Mortality rates for children and young people have declined considerably over the last 20 years, an independent advisory committee said in a report tabled in Parliament today.

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee’s Fourth Report to the Minister of Health covered deaths of children and young people from January 2002 to December 2005.

“This report intends to give a fuller picture of child and youth mortality in New Zealand and help us understand the complex issues relating to these deaths,” said Professor Barry Taylor, former Chair of the Committee.

Established in 2002, the Committee collects information on all mortality occurring between four weeks and 25 years of age, to determine trends and patterns and to review the circumstances of mortality to seek preventable factors. It then makes recommendations to the Minister of Health on ways to reduce mortality. The committee is supported by a large number of advisors and a network of local groups.

The overall trends for child and youth mortality rates are improving. However, international comparison suggests that New Zealand is behind many other OECD (Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development) countries, and ethnic disparities remain a concern.

“Many deaths are preventable. The prevention of deaths requires work across the whole community, far beyond the health sector,” says Nick Baker, current Chair of the Committee.

Improvements in mortality review systems and processes over the last few years will contribute to reducing preventable deaths. As more information is collected it will provide direction for action and enable monitoring of that action over time.

Some of the issues the Report highlights include the:-

§ improving child and youth mortality rates § need for every baby to have a safe place to sleep § importance of developing youth health services and interagency collaboration to create supportive environments for young people § value of bringing information together at a local and a national level to understand the factors that contribute to child and youth mortality.

The Committee has worked with the Ministry of Health to ensure that professionals have access to up to date and relevant information and messages to help parents and the community understand the need for safe sleeping places, safe sleeping positions and protecting infants to keep them safe while sleeping.

The importance of creating supportive environments for our young people as a way of reducing risk taking behaviour and preventable deaths is highlighted in the Report. Youth Health: A guide to action is acknowledged, and it is recommended that DHBs should be encouraged to implement it. This will support young people to build healthy connections across whânau, schools, peers, work and training, culture and environment.

The Mortality Review process brings together “the pieces of the puzzle” at both the local and national level. Local Child and Youth Mortality Review Groups (LCYMRGs) are currently operating in ten DHBs. It is planned that local mortality review will be operational in all DHBs within the next year.

“Every death is a tragedy. While we cannot undo the circumstances of deaths we must learn from them and act to prevent similar deaths. Developing the system of collecting information has been important; we must now continue to develop ways to make best use of this information to benefit our children and young people. Much work is still to be done.” said Dr Nick Baker, the Review Committee’s current Chair.


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