Nav: Home

New Labour's policies reduced geographical inequalities in infant mortality rates

March 19, 2019

Efforts by the Labour government to reduce inequalities between the most deprived areas of England and the rest of the country had a positive impact on infant mortality rates, suggests research by the Universities of Newcastle, Leeds, York, and Liverpool published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

However, the authors warn that the current Conservative government's austerity policies may have undermined these gains because the trend in decreasing inequalities has not continued perhaps due to austerity measures.

When Tony Blair's New Labour government came to power in 1997, it attempted to use policy levers to reduce geographical health inequalities in England.

There was a focus on early years, education, supporting families, engaging communities in tackling deprivation, improving prevention, increasing access to healthcare and tackling the underlying social determinants of health (e.g. via tax credits and introducing the minimum wage).

A range of social programmes such as SureStart were funded and there were large funding increases for the NHS and other public services.

However, when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took control in 2010 this strategy was replaced with austerity measures intended to reduce the national deficit.

For this study the authors examined what impact New Labour's policies had on health inequalities by measuring inequalities in the infant mortality rate between the most deprived local authorities and the rest of England before, during and after its health inequalities strategy was put in place.

They found that before New Labour's health inequalities strategy (1983-1998), the gap in the infant mortality between the most deprived local authorities and the rest of England increased at a rate of 3 infant deaths per 100,000 births per year.

During the strategy period (1999-2010), the gap narrowed by 12 infant deaths per 100,000 births per year and after the strategy period ended (2011-2017) the gap began increasing again at a rate of 4 deaths per 100,000 births per year.

There was also a marginal decrease in relative inequalities* during the strategy period.

This is an observational study, and as such, can't establish causality. The authors also highlight that their results may have differed if they had used infant survival rather than infant mortality as an outcome measure, or occupational class rather than geographical area as a measure of deprivation.

The observed decrease in inequalities in the infant mortality rate may also have been impacted by broader government strategies rather than the health inequalities strategy alone, they add.

Nevertheless, they say: "The multifaceted English health inequalities strategy, implemented between 1999 and 2010, was associated with a decrease in geographical inequalities in the infant mortality rate between the most and less deprived English local authorities."

"These results imply that government policies specifically introduced to decrease inequalities in health may be beneficial, and that their discontinuation as a result of austerity may see inequalities increasing again."

They add that the findings have important implications for current and future health policy. "Our analysis suggests that it is increases in public spending on healthcare and welfare that are associated with decreases in inequalities in the infant mortality rate, and this is something that should be learnt from by current and future governments.

"Current government policies are arguably going in the wrong direction and may squander some of the gains made in the health inequalities strategy period," they conclude.
-end-
Externally peer reviewed? Yes
Evidence type: Observational
Subjects: People

BMJ

Related Infant Mortality Articles:

An 'unprecedented' rise in infant mortality in England linked to poverty
New study, published in BMJ Open, links a rise in infant mortality in England to poverty.
Discovered new regulation for infant growth
Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway have identified new genetic signals for the regulation of how infants grow.
Can pomegranate juice protect the infant brain?
In ongoing investigations, clinical researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital are exploring whether pomegranate juice intake during pregnancy can have a protective effect.
Infant mortality is higher for low-skilled parents
Infants of women with a short-term education are more likely to die within the first year of life.
New Labour's policies reduced geographical inequalities in infant mortality rates
Efforts by the Labour government to reduce inequalities between the most deprived areas of England and the rest of the country had a positive impact on infant mortality rates, suggests research by the Universities of Newcastle, Leeds, York, and Liverpool published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Is infant temperament associated with future risk of childhood obesity?
This observational study looked at whether the temperament of infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes was associated with future risk of childhood obesity at ages 2 to 5 years.
Infant mortality rates higher in areas with more Christian fundamentalists, study finds
The odds of an infant dying before their first birthday are higher in counties with greater proportions of conservative Protestants, especially fundamentalists, than in counties with more mainline Protestants and Catholics, according to a new Portland State University study.
State-by-state causes of infant mortality in the US
Sudden unexpected death of infants (SUDI) was the most common cause of infant mortality among children born full term in the US according to estimates from a state-by-state study published this week in PLOS Medicine.
Infant mortality rates in Texas vary dramatically from one zip code to the next
Infant mortality rates in Texas vary dramatically even across neighboring zip codes, according to a new analysis and mapping tool from researchers at The University of Texas System and UT Health Northeast.
Researchers find differences in infant morbidity-mortality rates in NYC hospitals
Blacks and Hispanic very preterm infants are more likely to be born at hospitals with higher risk-adjusted neonatal morbidity-mortality rates, and these differences contribute to excess morbidity and mortality among black and Hispanic infants.
More Infant Mortality News and Infant Mortality Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab