Zylbersztejn A, Gilbert R, Hjern A, Hardelid P.

BMJ, (2019) PG 53-61

Objective To compare mortality in children aged <5 years from two causes amenable to healthcare prevention in England and Sweden: respiratory tract infection (RTI) and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

Design Birth cohort study using linked administrative health databases from England and Sweden.

Setting and participants Singleton live births between 2003 and 2012 in England and Sweden, followed up from age 31 days until the fifth birthday, death or 31 December 2013.

Main outcome measures The main outcome measures were HR for RTI-related mortality at 31–364 days and at 1–4 years and SUDI mortality at 31–364 days in England versus Sweden estimated using Cox proportional hazards models. We calculated unadjusted HRs and HRs adjusted for birth characteristics (gestational age, birth weight, sex and congenital anomalies) and socioeconomic factors (maternal age and socioeconomic status).

Results The English cohort comprised 3 928 483 births, 768 RTI-related deaths at 31–364 days, 691 RTI-related deaths at 1–4 years and 1166 SUDIs; the corresponding figures for the Swedish cohort were 1 012 682, 131, 118 and 189. At 31–364 days, unadjusted HR for RTI-related death in England versus Sweden was 1.52 (95% CI 1.26 to 1.82). After adjusting for birth characteristics, the HR reduced to 1.16 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.40) and for socioeconomic factors to 1.11 (95% CI 0.92 to 1.34). At 1–4 years, unadjusted HR was 1.58 (95% CI 1.30 to 1.92) and decreased to 1.32 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.61) after adjusting for birth characteristics and to 1.30 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.59) after further adjustment for socioeconomic factors. For SUDI, the respective HRs were 1.59 (95% CI 1.36 to 1.85) in the unadjusted model, and 1.40 (95% CI 1.20 to 1.63) after accounting for birth characteristics and 1.19 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.39) in the fully adjusted model.

Conclusion Interventions that improve maternal health before and during pregnancy to reduce the prevalence of adverse birth characteristics and address poverty could reduce child mortality due to RTIs and SUDIs in England.