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Preventing child deaths: what do administrative data tell us?
  1. Ania Zylbersztejn,
  2. Ruth Gilbert,
  3. Pia Hardelid
  1. UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pia Hardelid, Population, Policy & Practice Programme, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London WC1N 1EH, UK; p.hardelid{at}

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The UK has one of the highest child mortality rates in Western Europe: 4 in every 1000 children die before the age of 1 year, compared with 2 per 1000 children in Sweden. Likewise, the mortality rate of children aged 1–14 years in the UK is 10.4/100 000 children compared with 8.3/100 000 in Sweden.1 Since the UK has a universal healthcare system, and comparable levels of per capita incometo Sweden, a substantial proportion of deaths in children in the UK are likely to be preventable. This raises the question of what policies we should prioritise in order to lower child mortality rates in the UK most rapidly. Data on child deaths are crucial to answering this question. In the November 2018 issue of Archives, Garstang,2 in an editorial linked to a paper by Firth et al,3 argues that a national dataset collated from Child Death Overview Panels (CDOPs) will allow us to ‘understand better why children die in the UK and reduce our child mortality’. In this commentary, we compare data collected by CDOPs to mortality data collected via linked civil registration and administrative data systems. We propose that important lessons for preventing child deaths can already be drawn from analyses of mortality records linked to other administrative datasets and at relatively low cost. Targeted use of detailed investigations into the circumstances of child death could be guided by and enhance findings from administrative data, but the priority should be greater use and wider linkage of these data to inform strategies to prevent child deaths.

Child Death Overview Panels

There are approximately 4000 deaths in children less than 18 years old in England every year.4 5 The circumstances of each of these deaths will be reviewed by one of 148 CDOPs. A CDOP has 12 panel members on average, who …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to drafting the manuscript based on an initial idea by AZ and PH.

  • Funding This manuscript benefits from and contributes to a response mode project on Healthcare Amenable Mortality in Children, funded by the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit, but this research was not commissioned by the NIHR Policy Research Programme.

  • Competing interests All authors use administrative health data from the Office for National Statistics, National Health Service Digital and other UK data providers extensively in their research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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