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Whanganui pulls out all stops to reduce its infant death rate

News Item

posted by WM Admin on 23 January 2014



Whanganui District Health Board media release, 22 January 2014

Whanganui child health workers have launched a multi-pronged, collaborative effort to implore parents of babies and infants to breastfeed, not to smoke, to lay their babies on their backs and to not sleep with their babies.
Concerned by Whanganui’s alarming child death rates, the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB), Plunket, the Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRNH) and the Teen Parents Reference Group are applying for funds to purchase Pepi pods (safe, portable baby beds) to distribute to parents of new babies considered at risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).
Health services throughout the region are committed to encouraging women not to smoke during pregnancy, to educate themselves and their wider whanau/families about safe sleeping practices for babies, and to improve breast feeding rates in Whanganui.
Wanganui Hospital’s head of paediatrics David Montgomery says he’s sure parents and the wider community will welcome this news after reading in Tuesday’s Chronicle that Whanganui has the highest rate of infant deaths in the country.
As chair of Whanganui’s Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Dr Montgomery says it’s very upsetting to know the deaths of many babies are preventable
The national Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee’s latest survey results released last week said the WDHB had reported 18 deaths of children between 28 days and a year old in the four years to 2012. This gave the region a mortality rate of 4.03 for every 1000 live births. Northland was second highest with a rate of 3.25 per 1000 births.
“Tragically, high numbers of Maori babies across the country are dying due to SUDI,” Dr Montgomery says. “Health workers in Whanganui are determined we will bring about change in our region.
“Our collaborative efforts include working closely with Whakawhetu (the National SUDI prevention for Maori) who have been here training our workforce to help them relay the SUDI messages in a manner that’s culturally appropriate for Maori.
“Our midwives and Well Child providers (Tamariki Ora and Plunket) are working hard to educate all parents of new babies about how to reduce the SUDI risks. Parents need to understand that if their baby falls in the SUDI risk category with low birth weight, exposure to smoke, and sleeping in positions which compromise their airways, their baby is vulnerable.
“It’s all about doing everything possible to enhance a baby’s ability to breathe well. Occasionally babies do die for reasons we don’t understand but to see them dying unnecessarily is heart breaking. We have to find ways to ensure parents and the whole whanau/family understand how important it is to follow the safe sleeping messages.”
Dr Montgomery says he believes the education effort being made in Whanganui will make a difference “but it’s going to take the whole community to protect Whanganui’s babies”.