Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Greenwich Borough]
One factor which was not in line with current opinion
emerged from the investigation in connection with congenital malformation.
This was to the effect that influenza rather than rubella
could have been implicated and, further, that with particular
reference to still births attributed to malformation of the central
nervous system there was a predominance of females over males
which defied explanation but which could possibly be caused by a
sex-linked genetic factor.
Improvement in national reproductive wastage figures from
111.4 per 1,000 total births in 1929 to 43.6 in 1958 (a fall equivalent
to 61 per cent.) has not been followed by a similar improvement
in perinatal mortality. This on the other hand has decreased only
by 43 per cent., namely from 61.4 to 35.0 during the same period.
Nevertheless it must be conceded that further reductions in
infant mortality, though possible, are extremely difficult to effect
but, with the present increased attention devoted to heredity and
the emphasis laid on the study of genetics, a measure of control
and subsequent correction of congenital malformations is to be
expected. Such research work is highly specialised and is perhaps
to be regarded as long term but the immediate problem is to make
every possible endeavour to ascertain by post mortem examination
the cause of infant deaths and stillbirths. Efforts on these lines
are supported by the Population (Statistics) Act, 1960, by which
certain information regarding stillbirths, originally provided on a
temporary basis under a 1938 enactment, has now been made
compulsory and permanent under the new Act.
At a time when the problem of infant mortality is already
sufficiently complicated it is little short of calamitous and extremely
discouraging to learn, at the end of the current year, that recent investigations
have indicated that the use of certain modern drugs
by the expectant mother in early pregnancy can be a prime cause
of congenital malformation.
The Infantile Mortality Rate for Greenwich, measured by the
deaths of children under one year of age to the number of live
births registered was 23.11 per thousand live births as compared
with 17.54 for last year and 18.63, the average for the previous
ten years. For the County of London the rate was 21.5 in comparison
with 21.6. the figure returned for England and Wales.
The present Borough figure of 23.11 shows an increase of
5.57 over that of the previous year and is 4.48 higher than the
average for the last 10 years.
A table showing the causes of and ages at death is included
in the Appendix to the Report.