Blood-related parents common factor in Redbridge child deaths

Vicky Hobart, Redbridge director of public health

Vicky Hobart, Redbridge director of public health - Credit: Archant

Almost a quarter of children who died in Redbridge last year had parents who were blood relations, a report has revealed.

Redbridge public health said more needed to be done to raise awareness of the risks of death and life-threatening conditions for children of “consanguineous” – blood-related – parents.

The report, presented to the health and wellbeing board on Monday, said work was under way to produce a leaflet highlighting the risks and offering support such as genetic counselling.

Gladys Xavier, deputy director of public health, told the meeting work was being done in schools, with faith leaders, community groups, teachers and young people.

Last week, another report presented to the education scrutiny panel cited the problem as one of the reasons behind a “rapid increase” in the number of pupils in Redbridge with special educational needs.

Marriage between first cousins and second cousins is common in some ethnic groups, including some Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, Roma gypsies and Irish travellers.

If a couple are blood relatives, there is a greater chance that both will carry a mutated gene for the same recessive disorder.

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Statistics show three per cent of babies born to unrelated couples have a birth disorder, while for related couples it is six per cent.

Vicky Hobart, director of public health, said: “First cousin marriage is not a new phenomenon, so it is not surprising that we have identified the issue in our child death review process.

“Advances in genetic medicine also mean that there are now opportunities for testing and genetic counselling that were not available before.

“Parents and communities have told us they want to understand the issue better, so we have been working with community groups to develop local information resources.”

According to the child overview death panel (CDOP) annual report for 2013/14, there were nine expected deaths and four unexpected deaths of under-18s in Redbridge.

Of those, the report said two of the expected deaths were of children whose parents were related, and one unexpected death – 23 per cent of the total 14 deaths.