The higher incidence of infant mortality among Turkish and Moroccan families in the Netherlands can be partially explained by the blood relations between the parents. On the other hand, babies of Antillian and Surinamese mothers die more often in their first year because they are lighter in weight and are born prematurely, according to study by the Rotterdam Erasmus Medical Center, prepared by Ernst Jan Troe for a doctoral degree.
According to the researchers, the study makes it clear for the first time that the reasons for the higher infant mortality in immigrant families are different among the different population groups. Professor of social medical care Johan Mackenback, of Erasmus MC, who had guided Troe: "That's important, because then you shouldn't approach with uniform treatment."
Troe used data from Dutch Statistics and from the Generation R Studie, a study of about 10,000 Rotterdam children and their parents.
A lot of attention has been given in the past few years to children who die soon after birth and in their first year. In 2003 there were 1.5 more babies who died in the month after birth, then in the best scoring European countries.
Infant mortality among immigrants in the Netherlands is yet 1.5 times high as by ethnic Dutch. Over the first year of life, six or seven out of every 1000 immigrant babies die. The high infant mortality among immigrant families contributes to the higher Dutch average.
Turkish and Moroccan babies die relatively often later in the first year, and also often of genetic defects. The researchers calculated that 5-23% of the deaths were a result of blood relations. 20% of couples in these ethnic groups are cousins or second cousins.
Among Turkish mothers, particularly of the 2nd generation, smoking also played a major role. This can cause crib death.
Mackenbach: "Therefore it's also important that mothers get in touch with prenatal care sooner. Then you can still curtail the consequences of smoking and blood relations."
In the case of blood relations and defects in the family, couples can decide not to have children, or to do prenatal tests.
Infant mortality among Antillian and Surinamese in the Netherlands depends for the most part on the height of the parents. This will not change in the short term.
Mackenbach: "A small mother doesn't have a lot of room in the pelvis for a large child. In addition the height reflects on the health of the mother earlier in life."
However, the number of teenage pregnancies, that has been decreasing since 2001, but is still high particularly among Antillian mothers, can be decreased. Teenage pregnancies also namely contribute to infant mortality.
Source: NRC (Dutch)
See also: Netherlands: Immigrant death rates going down, Rotterdam: 24% of Turks, 22% of Moroccans, married with family, Norway: Immigrant children born with serious deformities