11 Aug 2011

Concerns over high death rates of Pacific babies in New Zealand

7:20 pm on 11 August 2011

A health researcher says poverty and obesity are contributing to the high death rates of babies with Pacific ethnicity born in New Zealand.

An epidemiologist with the perinatal maternal mortality review committee Lynn Sadler says Pacific mothers have the highest rate of still birth of all races in New Zealand.

She says both Pacific and Maori babies are also more likely than others to die in the neonatal period.

She says it is not known why Pacific families are over represented but research shows overweight women have worse pregnancy outcomes.

She says all women in lower socio economic areas struggle to have healthy babies and this is a big factor for Pacific mothers.

Dr Sadler says ninety six babies from Pacific families died in New Zealand in 2009 and about fifteen of those deaths were preventable.

"We have a group of people who are poor, and are overweight and often smoke more, Maori and Pacific women have higher rates of smoking, and thats associated with perinatal death and other bad perinatal outcomes as well."

Dr Sadler says a recent workshop has looked at ways to make pregnancy safer and she says better access to pregnancy health care and education is vital.