Why Children Die – Scotland

Health Policy Lead Emily Roberts blogs about the RCPCH's 'Why Children Die - Scotland' report launch event which took place on Wednesday 8 October in Edinburgh.

Following on from the release of policy recommendations in England and Wales in response to the RCPCH and National Children’s Bureau report Why children die: death in infants children and young people in the UK, the RCPCH launched a suite of policy recommendations in the Scottish Parliament aimed at reducing child mortality in Scotland. There was not seat to spare in the room with representatives from the Scottish Government, third sector organisations, members of the RCPCH Youth Advisory panel, along with a number of paediatricians and other healthcare professionals all in attendance to discuss and debate this important issue.

Marco Biagi MSP, co-convenor of the cross party working group on Children and Young People, sponsored the event which was also attended by Colin Keir MSP. Dr Peter Fowlie, RCPCH Officer for Scotland, chaired the session, and Dr Ingrid Wolfe, lead author of the report opened the event, presenting the key themes and areas for priority in relation to child mortality in the UK.

Each year approximately 350 to 450 children die in Scotland, and while we know that not all of these deaths can be avoided, we do know that risk of death during childhood and adolescence is amenable to public policy and public health interventions. For example, many deaths during childhood are due to injury, including road traffic accidents, therefore interventions aimed at making Scotland’s roads safer, such as 20mph speed limits, could help to reduce the number of these tragic fatalities.

Following Ingrid’s presentation there was an opportunity for MSPs, both Marco Biagi and Colin Keir to respond to the report and our recommendations, as well Dr Kate McKay, Senior Medical Officer for the Scottish Government. Overall there was clear agreement of the importance of continuing to reduce child mortality as well as recognition of how current Scottish Government initiatives such as Getting it right for every child can play a key role in maximising children’s life chances.

While the audience were welcoming of the recommendations they did not lose sight of the fact that many of these policy asks are not new. For example it has long been know that reducing smoking in pregnancy is key to preventing many premature deaths in the under 1’s, yet it continues to play a key role in poor child health outcomes. The issue of child maltreatment and its role in child death was also highlighted as an area for future consideration, along with how the Scottish Government could potentially utilise any future devolved powers to tackle one of the more prominent risk factors for child death, poverty and inequality.

Our response for Scotland, along with those for England and Wales, signals the start of the conversation around reducing avoidable death during childhood. We know there is much to be done, and we will work collaboratively with governments, academic institutions, third sector organisations and our members to achieve this.

Download the full report