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Perinatal, Maternal Mortality Review Committee

Hon Annette King
Minister of Health

25 July 2005 Media Statement

Government establishes Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee

The Government has established a new ministerial committee that aims to reduce the numbers of preventable perinatal and maternal deaths in New Zealand.

Health Minister Annette King says she is very pleased that the 10-member Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee will meet for the first time next month. “When I made a commitment earlier this year to set up this committee, I knew there was widespread sector support, so I am delighted that the expert committee members will be able to meet so soon and start developing strategic plans to help reduce morbidity and mortality in these areas.

“We know that as child and youth mortality declines, perinatal mortality features more prominently as a cause of death in children. In 1999, 54 per cent of all infant deaths occurred in the first month of life. This proportion has risen from 42 per cent in 1989. It's possible that some of these deaths could have been prevented, and the committee’s focus will be on bringing the perinatal mortality rate down.”

Perinatal is defined as a baby whose age ranges from 20 weeks completed gestation (400 grams birthweight) to 28 completed days after birth. Maternal deaths are when women die from causes directly related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Ms King says that in 2000 five women died as a result of their pregnancy or labour. In the same year there were 544 perinatal deaths and an additional 41 late neonatal deaths, giving a total of 585 deaths. A late neonatal baby is aged between seven and 27 days old.

The new ministerial committee, like the Child and Youth Mortality Committee, will report to the Minister of Health. Together, the two statutory mortality review committees will review the deaths of all children in New Zealand. This is in line with international practice for mortality review.

Ms King says Professor Cynthia Farquhar will chair the new committee. Other members are Jacqueline Anderson, Vicki Culling, Dr Dawn Elder, Deborah Harris, Elisapeta Karalus, Associate Professor Lesley McCowan, Dr Stephanie Palmer, Mollie Wilson and Dr Jane Zuccollo.

ENDS

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