26 September 2023

Child mortality rates highligh inequality

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Infant and child mortality rates in New South Wales have fallen since 2005 according to a new report from the NSW Ombudsman but the report also reveals death rates continue to be higher for youngsters in disadvantaged areas.

The Ombudsman, Paul Miller (pictured) said his Biennial report of the deaths of children in New South Wales: 2018 and 2019; Incorporating reviewable deaths of children concerned 989 children who died in NSW in 2018 and 2019.

Mr Miller said his Report detailed how, over a 15-year period from 2005 to 2019, the mortality rate for infants aged less than one declined by 30 per cent and by 26 per cent for children aged one to 17 years.

“It is pleasing to be able to report that infant and child mortality rates in NSW are, overall, continuing to decline in NSW,” Mr Miller said.

“However, there remains much more to be done to prevent the deaths of children in NSW,” he said.

“The declines in mortality are not uniform.

“There are clear variations in the risk of a child dying in NSW by region and across different socioeconomic groups.”

Mr Miller said infants and children from disadvantaged families were over-represented in deaths from almost all causes and the mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants and children remained significantly higher than for non-Indigenous children.

The Ombudsman said the rate of suicide among children and young people aged 10 to 17 had increased by 47 per cent over the past 15 years and in 2018 and 2019 suicide was the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 17 years.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a much higher rate of suicide than non-Indigenous children,” he said.

“More males than females die by suicide and this gender gap has increased in the last five years.”

Mr Miller made recommendations to the Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Health, Transport for NSW and the Department of Customer Service pertaining to Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy; drowning; transport fatalities; suicide; as well as abuse and neglect.

“On behalf of the NSW Child Death Review Team and staff, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the infants, children and young people who have died, and whose deaths are considered in this Report,” he said.

“It is our foremost responsibility that, in reviewing these deaths, we learn from them and use that knowledge to make a difference,” Mr Miller said.

The Ombudsman’s 131-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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