‘More to be done’ to prevent infant and child mortality in NSW

By Melissa Coade

Thursday August 26, 2021

(moodboard /Adobe)

The NSW ombud has tabled a report in parliament, showing that while infant mortality rates in the state declined by 30% over 15 years, improvements are not uniform across the community.

Ombud Paul Miller said that looking at the data from 2005 to 2019, there were ‘clear variations’ in the risk of a child in NSW dying by region and across different socio economic groups.

Consistent with our previous reports, infants and children from disadvantaged families are over-represented in deaths from almost all causes, and the mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants and children remains significantly higher than for non-Indigenous children,” Miller said.

In the report, the ombud considered the underlying risk factors that may have contributed to preventable deaths, identified actions that can prevent or reduce future deaths of children.

In the 15 years of data contained in the report, the ombud found that the mortality rate for infants aged under one year declined by 30%. For children aged 1-17 years the rate declined by 26%, from 15.4 to 11.4 deaths per 100,000 children.

Miller said that while it was pleasing to be able to report mortality rates had declined overall, a lot more was still needed to prevent the deaths of children in the state.

Of particular concern, suicides among young people aged 10-17 in NSW has ‘increased significantly’ in this same time, the report found. The suicide rates among children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds are ‘much higher’ compared with to the rate of non-Indigenous child suicides.

The report also found that more boys died from suicide than girls, with the tragic gender gap increasing in the last five years.

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

A closer examination of the 989 child deaths that occured in NSW during the 2018 and 2019 calendar years, a total of 38 were reviewable by the ombud’s office. Of this group, 19 children died while in care, and another 19 died in circumstances of (or suspicious of) abuse or 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,” Miller said. 

The ombud’s report contains a series of recommendations to help prevent deaths related to Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy, drowning, transport fatalities, suicide, abuse and neglect.

The recommendations relate to the work of Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), NSW Health, Transport for NSW, and Department of Customer Service.

The full Biennial report of the deaths of children in New South Wales: 2018 and 2019, incorporating reviewable deaths of children can be viewed online


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