Low birth weight babies in Tower Hamlets 60% above London average

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9,500 babies were born with a low birth weight in London last year. A little over half of them were premature but more than 4,000 were full term babies who weighed less than 2.5 kg or 5.5lbs.

Low birth weight is related to the rate of infant deaths and the risk of poor health for children. While the rate has come down in London over the past 10 years at 3.2% it is still above the average for England and in some areas it is markedly higher.

The rate in Tower Hamlets is 5%, the highest in London. It is also high in Newham, Harrow and Waltham Forest. Boroughs in South West London have much lower rates, particularly Richmond and Sutton.

Low birth weight

The reasons for low birth weight in full term babies are complex. Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy are factors but so too are medical problems for the mother such as conditions that affect the placenta and inhibit the baby’s growth.

Genetics also play a part. Some families are just smaller and low birth weight is far more common in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African and Caribbean families than white Europeans. The areas of London with high rates all have a higher than average proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents.

But low birth weight has also been linked to social inequalities. It is more common in single mothers and for parents in manual occupations.

The government uses it as a public health indicator in relation to issues of premature mortality, avoidable illness, and inequalities in health, particularly in relation to child poverty.

Source data

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Over 50% of London babies have mothers born outside the UK

 

Over 50% of London babies have mothers born outside the UK

Baby hand

More than half the babies in London last year were born to mothers who were from outside the UK. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 58% of new Londoners had mothers who were born outside the UK.  That’s more than double the national rate as across the country non-UK mums account for 27% of births.

In 3 boroughs, Newham, Westminster and Brent, three quarters of the births were to mothers from outside the UK. Since 2004 Newham has had the highest rate in the country for births by women born overseas. Last year it was 76.4%.

The boroughs with the lowest rates of births to mothers born overseas are Havering, Bromley and Bexley. With 28% non UK-born mothers Havering comes closest to the national average.

Mothers born outside UK

National data shows that Poland, Pakistan and India are the most common countries of birth for mothers who are not UK-born. The Polish-born population of the UK has increased 10-fold in the past 10 years.

Of the 127,000 babies born in London in 2014, 25,000 had mothers born in Asia or the Middle East, 20,000 had mothers born in the EU, the majority in newer EU members, which includes Poland, and nearly 17,000 had mothers from Africa.

Across London the most common region of birth for mothers from outside the UK varies from borough to borough. In 6 of the 14 inner London boroughs, including Haringey and Islington, it is the EU. In 10 of the 19 outer London boroughs, including Hillingdon, Harrow, Redbridge and Sutton, it is Asia and the Middle East. For 8 boroughs, including Lewisham, Southwark and Barking and Dagenham, it is Africa.

Source data

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Low ranking on infant deaths puts London behind other cities

hLondon has a higher infant death rate than many other wealthy international capitals, according to a study by Save the Children.

As part of a wide assessment of infant mortality the charity looked at urban areas across the globe, including 25 cities in wealthy developed countries.  London came 19th in the list of 25 that was topped by Prague.  The infant death rate in London is 4 in every 1000 live births.  In Prague, Stockholm and Oslo it is half that.

Infant mortality

Washington DC came bottom of the ranking with a death rate of 7.9 infants per thousand.  Within the US capital there is a wide discrepancy with the death rate 10 times higher in the poorest neighbourbood as the richest one.

Urban populations are growing worldwide, and while this has led to better survival rates for children under 5, according to Save the Children, there is a growing gap between urban rich and urban poor.  Survival rates for the poorest children in city slum areas are as bad or worse than those for rural areas.

State of the World’s Mothers – the Urban Disadvantage