09:01am Tuesday 12 November 2019

Australia gets good report card for child death rate – but room for improvement

The study, to be published in The Lancet today (May 24), was conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), at the University of Washington.

Professor Lopez said the research showed while there had been a decline in child mortality in Australia over the past decade, to 4.7 per thousand live births, other countries had been reducing their child mortality rates even faster.

“As a result, Australia is actually dropping in the global rankings,” Professor Lopez said.

“Singapore, by contrast, ranked near the bottom of the Top 10 in child mortality in 1990 and has climbed to first place.

“The United Arab Emirates was not even in the top 20 percent of countries for child mortality in 1990, and it has since climbed into the top seven percent.

“Both countries now have lower child mortality rates than Australia, as do Portugal, Serbia and Cyprus.”

He said there were two key areas where child health needed more work in Australia.

“We need to decrease the number of neonatal deaths – those occurring in the first days of life – by strengthening antenatal services, monitoring pregnancies more closely and increasing the programs being offered,” he said.

“The other area is mortality rates in Indigenous children.

“Neonatal deaths are much higher and Indigenous children are still dying of infectious diseases, like measles, diarrohea and pneumonia, at a much higher rates than the white population.”

Researchers from UQ and at the University of Washington generated estimates for 187 countries of under-five mortality rates – the risk of a newborn dying by age five for every 1,000 live births.

The study showed that globally, the child mortality picture looks much brighter than in prior years.

The number of child deaths has been dropping faster than expected and has declined below eight million for the first time in recent history.

Worldwide, mortality in children younger than five years has dropped from 11.9 million deaths in 1990 to 7.7 million deaths in 2010, a rate of decline that is faster than expected.

The total number of deaths consists of 3.1 million neonatal deaths, 2.3 million postneonatal deaths, and 2.3 million deaths of children aged one year to four years.

It shows that under-five mortality is falling in every region of the world – a 35 percent reduction since 1990 – and that only Swaziland, Lesotho, Equitorial Guinea and Antigua and Barbuda have seen increases between 1990 and 2010.

The global decline during the past 20 years is 2.1 percent per year for overall under-five mortality and for neonatal mortality, 2.3 percent for postneonatal mortality, and 2.2 percent for mortality in children aged one year to five years.

“One of the biggest achievements of the past 20 years has been this incredible progress in countries that historically have had the highest child mortality in the world,” said Dr Christopher Murray, IHME Director and one of the paper’s co-authors.

“Unlike adult deaths, where we have seen the gap between the countries with the highest mortality and lowest mortality widen, in child deaths, that gap is shrinking,” he said.

“Previous estimates had shown child deaths falling slowly and neonatal deaths nearly at a standstill,” said Julie Knoll Rajaratnam, the lead author of the study and Assistant Professor of Global Health at IHME.

“We were able to double the amount of data and improve the accuracy of our estimates to find that children are doing better today than at any time in recent history, especially in the first month of life.”

The study, “Neonatal, postneonatal, childhood, and under-5 mortality for 187 countries, 1970–2010: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4,” will be published online by The Lancet.

The research article and the following tables are accessible from IHME’s website.

Figure 1: Map of countries showing their under-five mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) in 2010

Figure 2: Map of countries showing their annualized rate of decline in under-five mortality between 1990 and 2010

Table 1: Mortality trends worldwide: The probability of death between the ages of zero and five years (5q0) per 1,000, from 1990 to 2010, including all under-five mortality, neonatal mortality, and postneonatal mortality, for 187 countries.

Table 2: Mortality trends in sub-Saharan Africa: The probability of death between the ages of zero and five years (5q0) per 1,000, in 1990, 2000, and 2010, including all under-five mortality, neonatal mortality, and postneonatal mortality, for 50 countries.

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Media inquiries: Faculty Communications Officer, Marlene McKendry – 0401 99 6847.

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