Higher than average rates of infant mortality have long been a problem in North Kirklees – but it does seem to be gradually improving.
In 2005 statistics revealed the rate of babies dying before their first birthday was at least 50 per cent higher than the national average – with Dewsbury the highest in the district.
The JSNA report states: “Infant deaths are dropping overall, thankfully, especially in Dewsbury and Spen, though not in Batley, Birstall and Birkenshaw. Dewsbury has dropped from 13/1,000 live births in 2000-04 to 6.7 in 2009-11, Batley from 8.0 to 6.9.”
However, both still remain considerably higher than the national average of 4.2/1,000 live births.
Infant deaths in our district have been linked to low birth weight, the mother smoking during pregnancy, and congenital abnormality, which is especially prevalent in Pakistani origin families.
Another factor is the poor rate of breastfeeding in North Kirklees, which drops even lower after 6-8 weeks.
Dr Hooper said working with groups in South Asian communities was key to getting across the dangers of genetic closeness. She added: “We know that people think that if you marry within the family then you know what they are like, you can trust them. But by linking two families you need to be careful, you need to understand the risks you are beginning to run.”
Dr Hooper praised the work of pregnancy advice service Aunty Pam’s, based in Dewsbury. Trained volunteers and midwives offer a wide range of advice, including working together to teach mums in Dewsbury and District Hospital’s maternity ward how to breastfeed.