A new collaborative study shows that despite progress globally to reduce child mortality, a child’s risk of dying before age five varies substantially depending on where they are born. Geographic areas with the highest concentration of child deaths in the year 2000 are largely the same as those suffering the largest burden in 2017, reflecting inequality that is resistant to improvement.
The study “Mapping 123 million neonatal, infant and child deaths between 2000 and 2017” was published in the journal Nature. York University Professor Oghenowede Eyawo, from the Faculty of Health’s Global Health program, a co-author on the study, contributed to the interpretation of the data from the study using a precision global health lens as well as to the critical revision of the manuscript.
The study investigators used household survey and census data to create highly detailed maps of child deaths in 99 countries over a period of close to 20 years; these countries represent those with the most child deaths, before age five, that occurred in 2017.
The study found variability both across and within countries, and researchers were able to identify “hotspots” of vulnerability and areas that had great progress during the study period. The inconsistency of success indicates how differences in policy, finances, access to health services, infrastructure and other factors contribute to mortality rates. This information can help accelerate progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.2 to end preventable child deaths by 2030.
By estimating both mortality rates and absolute number of deaths, the study gives a complete picture of global child mortality and illuminates important trends and patterns, as well as the need for different approaches to reduce deaths of children under the age of five.
This is the first study on a global scale to provide such detail on child mortality over a long period of time, says Eyawo.
“It is as reprehensible as it is tragic that, on average, nearly 15,000 children under age five die every day,” said Simon I. Hay, senior author on the study and director of the Local Burden of Disease group at the Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation. “Why are some areas doing so well, while others struggle? In order to make progress, we need to enable precise targeting of interventions such as vaccines. Our findings provide a platform for nations’ health ministers, clinicians and others to make focused improvements in health systems.”