NCMD to look at link between deprivation and child death

Update: “No more important task than to reduce health inequalities” We are delighted to announce that Professor Sir Michael Marmot (University College London Institute of Health Equity) has written the foreword to this up-and-coming report… 

Preliminary analysis of child deaths by NCMD suggests that social deprivation has a detrimental effect across all causes of death (1) and ages, with the most profound effect in deaths of children who are less than one year old. Against the backdrop of a rising UK infant mortality rate (it has risen for the last three years (2) the reasons for which are not known), we have chosen to focus on the theme of deprivation to better understand the reasons behind its link to child death in England.

This phenomenon is not new. In the 1830s and 1840s, child mortality data revealed that, in the poorer quarters of Britain’s larger cities, almost one child in five born alive had died by the age of five. Polluted water and damp housing were thought to be the main causes at that time, and this data led to much reform over the 20th century (3).


However, deprivation continues to be linked to higher death rates. Thankfully, while child deaths related to COVID-19 appear to be extremely rare, this virus does provide a stark reminder that it is important to understand the reasons behind deprivation and increased chances of dying. Deaths of people of all ages involving COVID-19 occurred at more than twice the rate in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, compared with the least deprived (4).

Whichever source you use, deprivation was – and continues to be – an extremely important factor in determining the likelihood of death.

This is also true for children living in deprived areas, and so it is critically important to undertake detailed analysis in this area. Indeed, infant mortality rate is a key indicator of a nation’s health and health care systems. It is hoped that the findings from our analysis – which will be included in our Deprivation report – will then influence health and social care policy, and lead to improved outcomes for children living in poverty in the future. 

How to get the NCMD report on deprivation: This report is due out in the spring of 2021 (revised date, Oct 2020). Health and social care professionals should sign up to our mailing list to receive an update when it is available (you will also receive our quarterly newsletter and other key updates such as information about our webinar series for child death professionals). If you would prefer not to be added to the NCMD mailing list but would like to receive notification when this report is available, please email NCMD requesting this.

1. Main causes of death in children (0-18 years) are perinatal/neonatal causes, congenital anomalies, infection and cancer.
2. BMJ 2019;364:l963.
3. BBC –
4. Data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), May 2020

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