Unexpected young deaths dropping

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:43 17/01/2014

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Fewer young people and babies are dying unexpectedly in the region, according to a new report released by the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee.

But a leading Palmerston North child health professional says more could be done to prevent fatal situations from occurring in the first place.

The Ninth Data Report for the period 2008 to 2012 found there had been 144 deaths involving children and young people aged 28 days to 24 years in the MidCentral District Health Board area.

The Eighth Report, for the period 2007 to 2011, had 152 deaths.

MidCentral District Health Board clinical director of child health Jeff Brown said while there was a "pleasing and continued drop" in the Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant figures, "we're still too high".

"Other countries with similar incomes and health systems have half our rate so we have a way to go, but the trend is in the right direction and that's pleasing."

While a major improvement could be made to stop SUDI deaths, Mr Brown said there were still things people could do to prevent deaths of older children.

"There are farm tragedies when children take part in dangerous activities when they could easily have an alternative," he said.

"Like children on adult farm bikes or around machinery or unsupervised around water. And there are still children drowning or being hurt and killed in farm accidents and road accidents - we can still do better."

Mr Brown said a co-ordinated approach to child and infant safety was key for the health board this year.

Overall the number of deaths for those aged between 28 days and 24 years reduced across the country.

In the 2007 to 2011 report there were 3317 deaths and in the 2008 to 2012 report the figure dropped to 3225.

Committee chairman Nick Baker said there was no one reason for the reduction but a combination of factors gradually bringing about the positive change.

"We can attribute the reduction in SUDI rates to several factors," he said. "For example, improved safe sleep policies within district health boards, increased community awareness of the importance of safe sleep practices and the need for every child to have a sober caregiver, as well as better access to safe sleep resources and equipment, such as pepipods and wahakura.

"The drop in youth traffic death rates is most likely due to a combination of better roads and cars, graduated driver licensing, good policing, zero alcohol tolerance, increased awareness among youth about the dangers of driving, and good, consistent community messaging about staying safe on the road and not drinking and driving."

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