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Children in poorest areas three times more likely to die

Children living in poorest areas three times more likely to die

Children and young people living in the most deprived areas are three times more likely to die in childhood or adolescence than those living in the least deprived areas, a report has found.

The 13th data report of the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) has been released, covering the period 2012 to 2016. The CYMRC reviews the deaths of children and young people so these types of deaths can be prevented in the future.

This report shows that in 2016, 483 children and young people died. This is the lowest number of deaths in a single year since the CYMRC was established in 2002. While the reduced number of deaths shows a general decrease over time, the numbers of deaths continue to fluctuate from year to year (eg, 535 in 2015 and 486 in 2014).

CYMRC Chair Dr Felicity Dumble says the Committee’s work shows poverty is a key driver of child deaths in New Zealand.
“Our reports consistently show that children from families and whānau living in the most deprived households are more likely to die than children living in the least deprived households. This is true for all types of child death and also for many specific causes of death, such as whooping cough, injuries and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
“Children living in poverty may not be able to access health services in the same way as others, getting to the doctor and picking up or taking medicines can be harder. Their homes may be damp and cold, food may not be plentiful, mum and dad may work one or two jobs and are unable to take them to the doctor. They may live in a crowded home where infection is spread easily or resources are stretched.

“As a committee, we understand that the impact of poverty is pervasive – it is felt by children, their families and whānau across all aspects of their lives. This report highlights the impact of deprivation and ethnicity on the lives of our young people. More needs to be done to address this.”

Four causes of deaths are outlined in the report: from medical conditions, unintentional injury, intentional injury and SUDI.

Dr Dumble says the type of death is then examined further. “Medical conditions are the leading cause of death for children and young people at 39 percent of deaths. This is followed by unintentional injuries at 28 percent, intentional injury at 25 percent of deaths, and SUDI at 7 percent of deaths.”

Medical conditions include tumours and congenital disorders, unintentional injuries include transport-related deaths and drownings, and intentional injuries are made up of deaths due to suicide and assault.

She says the number of suicides among young people is a great concern.

“Between 2002 and 2016 there were 1758 deaths due to suicide which makes it the leading cause of death in adolescents. The report also identified that the number of suicide deaths in children is much higher in Māori: over one-half of deaths due to suicide in children aged 10-14 years were Māori.”

To address its concerns about the high rates of suicide among Māori young people, the CYMRC is taking an in-depth look at data on rangatahi suicide, to find out how these deaths can be prevented.

The report also found that Māori and Pacific children and young people are more likely to die compared to children from other ethnic backgrounds. Asian children and young people have the lowest death rates.

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