26 May, Saturday

London borough finds one in five child deaths caused by parents being related


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One in five child deaths in an east London borough have occurred because the mother and father are related, a report has found.
Redbridge Council found deaths of children from parents who were known consanguineous couples – meaning second cousins or more closely related – accounted for 19 per cent of 124 cases reviewed in the borough between 2008 and 2016.  
“Chromosomal, genetic and congenital abnormalities”, which are known to occur in offspring of interfamily relationships due to a heightened risk of certain genetic disorders, were identified as the causes of the deaths in a report by the borough's Child Death Overview Panel (CDOP).
The number of consanguineous parents in the borough has increased in the past year, but there has been an overall decrease since 2009-10, when ​Redbridge recorded the highest numbers of interfamily relationships.
Nine per cent of the children who died were from families with Pakistani origins – a group that had the highest rates of consanguineous parents, at 50 per cent, according to the report.
Gladys Xavier, chairwoman of the CDOP, told the board “educational programmes” had been rolled out among Asian communities in the area, while schools had been asked to “put greater emphasis on genetics” so pupils understand the complications around interfamily marriages, according to the Ilford Recorder.
Vicky Hobart, Redbridge’s director of public health, meanwhile argued that the small number of child deaths meant large percentages should not be misunderstood.
“Consanguinity is very common in many cultures and the worry with something like this is that we are dealing with very small numbers. It is important to note trends but we should not read too much into it,” she said.
And Councillor Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, stressed the council has always worked to reduce the level of consanguineous relationships in the borough.
She said: “It is a very sensitive area and we are handling it sensitively and seeing results. We are obviously going in the right direction.”
Redbridge CDOP was notified of just over 200 child deaths of Redbridge resident children between 2008 and 2016, and fully reviewed 80 per cent of these as part of the report.
Half of child deaths reviewed were among children of Asian ethnicities, with the highest numbers of deaths (18 per cent) within this category among children of Pakistani ethnicity.
There were no deaths among White Irish or Mixed White and Black African ethnicities, and only 1 per cent among the Arab, Asian, Chinese and any other ethnic group.


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