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Councils in West Midlands urged to do more to address infant mortality rates

An ‘unacceptable’ level of stillbirths and perinatal and infant deaths in the West Midlands needs a joint effort by local authorities and the NHS to promote better maternal health in order to tackle it, according to a new report from Public Health England (PHE).

The latest report from PHE shows that although the stillbirth rate in England decreased from 5.3 to 4.6 for every 1,000 births in 2000 to 2014, in the West Midlands it only decreased from 5.6 to 5.0.

In 2012-14, there were also inequalities in stillbirth rates within the region, with rates reaching 6.9 in Herefordshire, 6.0 in Sandwell and 5.5 in Birmingham but 3.3 in Warwickshire.  

In the same period, the perinatal mortality rate was 7.9 in the West Midlands, 10.5 in Sandwell, 9.8 in Birmingham and 9.0 in Wolverhampton, compared to 6.8 in England. The infant mortality rate was 5.5 in the West Midlands, 7.2 in Birmingham, 6.9 in Stoke-on-Trent, and 6.8 in Walsall, compared to 4.0 in England.

The report says: “Although there have been some improvements in infant and perinatal mortality in the West Midlands, there remain unacceptable variation and health inequalities across local authorities.”

The report urges more integration of health and social care, saying that the NHS, local authorities and other local bodies should work together to provide better early years support to improve infant and maternal health.

It says that the high levels of infant mortality could partly be due to a higher prevalence of key risk factors linked to public health.

Six out of eight local authorities had a significantly higher proportion of mothers who smoked during pregnancy than the national average of 11.4%, with the regional average being 14.2%. However, Sandwell had a 10.0% smoking rate.

The average rate of under 16 conceptions was at 5.5 for every 1,000, compared to 4.8 in England, and at 8.6 in Wolverhampton, 7.8 in Sandwell and 7.3 in Coventry, although it was 2.4 for Shropshire.

Breast feeding rates were significantly worse than the English average of 74.3% in nine out of eleven local authorities, with Coventry, Sandwell, Staffordshire and Wolverhampton not supplying data.



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