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Baby and young people deaths down but complacency unwise

Baby and young people deaths down but complacency unwise

Figures released today by the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) show fewer deaths of babies and young people.

The CYMRC’s Ninth Data Report predominantly reports on data from 2008 to 2012. Overall the number of deaths for those aged between 28 days and 24 years has reduced. In 2008, there were 699 total and in 2012 there were 600. This reduction has, in part, been driven by a reduction in the number of deaths attributed to sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) in the post-neonatal period (28 days to 1 year) and motor vehicle crashes in young people aged between 15 and 24 years.

SUDI rates in New Zealand are among the highest in the OECD and SUDI rates among Maori are disproportionately high compared with non-Maori. Deaths attributed to SUDI in those aged 28 days to 1 year reduced from 55 in 2008 to 36 in 2012. A three-year rolling rate shows that there was a statistically significant decrease in the rate of post-neonatal Maori SUDI deaths between the periods 2002–04 and 2010–12.

Deaths from youth traffic incidents (people aged 15–24 years) also reduced from 135 in 2008 to 75 in 2012. There was a statistically significant decrease in transport deaths overall between 2008 and 2012. This seems to be driven by decreases in both the 15–19 and 20–24-year-old age groups.

CYMRC Chair Dr Nick Baker says there is no one reason for the improvement, rather a combination of factors that are gradually bringing positive change.

“We can attribute the reduction in SUDI rates to several factors. For example, improved safe sleep policies within district health boards, increased community awareness of the importance of safe sleep practices and the need for every child to have a sober caregiver, as well as better access to safe sleep resources and equipment, such as pepipods and wahakura,” says Dr Baker.

“The drop in youth traffic death rates is most likely due to a combination of better roads and cars, graduated driver licensing, good policing, zero alcohol tolerance, increased awareness among youth about the dangers of driving, and good, consistent community messaging about staying safe on the road and not drinking and driving,” says Dr Baker.

These drops in death rates are very encouraging, Dr Baker says, but warns against complacency over the summer period.

“Do not underestimate how long it takes to build driving skills. Excess speed, unfamiliar roads, exhaustion, not using seat belts, alcohol, night driving, poor road conditions and pressure from peers are common factors seen in deaths reviewed by the CYMRC.

“Both SUDI and youth traffic deaths tend to increase during the summer holidays, so it’s important for everyone to take extra care and plan ahead. A large proportion of SUDI result from accidental suffocation in place of sleep. This happens surprisingly easily when something or someone makes it difficult for the infant to breathe. People need to make sure their infants have safe sleep every sleep, including when away from home or when groups are gathered and celebrations are taking place. And remember to plan so infants and children have sober caregivers. We cannot reinforce those messages strongly enough,” says Dr Baker.

The CYMRC operates under the umbrella of the Health Quality & Safety Commission. It reviews deaths of children and young people aged 28 days to 24 years, and provides advice on how to prevent further deaths.

The Ninth Data Report and all other CYMRC mortality data reports are on the Health Quality & Safety Commission website –


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