03/12/2010 13:32 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Newborn Death Rates Twice As High In Poorest Areas Of England

The death rate among newborn babies is more than twice as high in the poorest parts of England compared with the richest, according to a study.

A team from Leicester University looked at the 18,524 newborn babies who have died since 1997, assigning each a "deprivation score" based on their mother's residence.

Wrting in the British Medical Journal, they conclude: "Neo-natal deaths would be 39 per cent lower if all areas had the same neonatal mortality rates as the least deprived areas."

This equates to 7,119 lives that they implied could have been saved.

Dr Lucy Smith, who led the study, said that more needed to be done to "target specifically the risk of very premature birth and potentially lethal congenital abnormalities" in poorer areas, which account for about 80 per cent of the additional deaths.

Neonatal charity Bliss said key risk factors of newborn deaths include smoking and obesity.

The researchers said that more specific research was needed in order to understand more fully the relationship between lifestyle and other factors on birth defects and premature births.

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