The latest annual update on infant mortality rates, with data updated to 2006-08, was released on 3 December 2009 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.
These are used to monitor progress against the Department of Health infant mortality inequality PSA target for the gap in infant mortality between the Routine and Manual socio-economic group and the population as a whole, for England and Wales.
The key points from the latest release are:
· In the period 2006-08 there were 9,866 infant deaths overall in England and Wales, giving an overall rate of 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. This was a decrease on 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005-07.
· Of those with a valid socio-economic group (8,743), the rate was 4.5 deaths per 1,000. The three-year average infant mortality rate among the Routine and Manual group decreased to 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Both figures represent historic low levels of infant mortality in England and Wales.
· Out of the 8,743 deaths where social class was assigned, 43% of these deaths (3,777) were in the Routine and Manual group.
· The infant mortality rate among the R&M group was 16% higher than in the total population in 2006-08, the same as in 2005-07. The R&M rate was 17% higher in 2004-06, 18% higher in 2003-05 and 19% higher in 2002-04. This compares with 13% higher in the baseline period of 1997-99.
· In the most recent time period, the reduction in the infant mortality rate across the whole population has been matched by a reduction in the routine and manual group, the focus of the 2010 health inequalities infant mortality target. The target remains challenging and while the gap has narrowed since 2002-04, it remains unchanged since last year (2005-07). Further efforts will be needed to ensure that the target is met.
· Although not part of the target, the rate for sole registrations, that is, births registered by the mother alone, is also monitored. The rate in the most recent single year, 2008, has increased to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is higher than the previous two years where the rate for both years was 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births.
· Although not part of the target, the rate for “other” registrations, that is, births registered to fathers who are students, or have occupations inadequately described, occupations not classifiable for other reasons, never worked or long term unemployed is also monitored. The rate in the most recent single year, 2008, was 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, lower than in 2007 (rate of 8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births).
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