Vital progress

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THE falling numbers of infant deaths in Kirklees is an encouraging sign that the authorities are starting to make inroads into a hugely difficult problem, but worryingly the region still suffers one of the highest rates in the country.

While it is appreciated that the issue is one of the most sensitive and difficult to tackle, it is not new, with areas of West Yorkshire particularly, often in the top tier of national figures.

Health professionals have long been aware of the key factors behind the deaths – prematurity and congenital abnormality.

Knowing the problem has proved simple, resolving it extremely difficult. There has been some progress in educating people on the dangers of smoking and obesity, but the social and cultural barriers around consanguineous marriages prove a constant barrier.

Many infant deaths occur within hard-to-reach communities, families who may not even be aware that expert health advice is available and free.

That the team in Kirklees has made such significant progress reducing the rates is of great credit to them.

Sadly considerably more work still needs to be done.