Baby deaths fall, but inequalities persist.

Fewer babies in the UK died before their first birthday than
ever before in 2002, but the overall infant mortality rate is still
one of the highest in western Europe.

New figures from the Department of Health show an overall death
rate of 5.3 per 1,000 among babies aged under-one – 0.2 per
cent down on the previous year and less than half the rate recorded
in 1981.

But the 2002 UK figure for infant deaths is still higher than
the 2001 rate in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to a
report from Unicef.

It finds that children in the UK are also more likely to die
before their fifth birthday than those in 30 other countries
including Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, Korea, Malta, Slovenia and
Singapore.  The UK mortality rate for children aged under-five in
2001 was 7 per 1,000.

The United States has one of the highest infant and under-five
death rates among industrialised countries with 8 deaths per 1,000
children for under-fives, and 7 deaths per 1,000 for

The Department of Health reports wide regional variations within
England as well as a persistent gender gap in death rates among
young children in 2002.

The West Midlands had the highest infant mortality rate in
England at 8.1 deaths per 1,000. The lowest rate, 4.4 deaths per
thousand, was in the South East. The West Midlands also had the
highest rates of neonatal (deaths under four weeks) and perinatal
mortality (still births and deaths under one week).

Boys are more likely to die than girls.  There were 6 deaths per
1,000 boys under one and 4.6 per 1,000 girls. Among one- to
four-year-olds there were 0.26 deaths per 1,000 boys and 0.20 per
1,000 girls.

– Department of Health, Health Statistics Quarterly, autumn
2003, from


– The State of the World’s Children 2003, Unicef,

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