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Baby in a sari

New research has found that babies born to mothers of Bangladeshi and Caribbean ethnicity in the West Midlands and Bangladeshi ethnicity in the North West of England are least likely to have received a ‘6-8 week baby check’. The study by researchers at Oxford Population Health’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit is published in the British Journal of General Practice.

The 6-8 week baby check is a routine appointment usually carried out by a GP. All babies in England should get this check when they are 6-8 weeks old. During this appointment, doctors can detect any serious health problems early in infancy; this check-up is often a baby’s first contact with their GP.

The researchers used the GP records of around 1.2 million babies born between 2006 and 2021 to see how many babies had received a 6-8 baby check (coverage of baby checks) in different ethnic groups.

Key findings:

  • Coverage of baby checks across England increased between 2006-7 and 2015-16 but there was unequal coverage of baby checks between ethnic groups in different regions in England;
  • In the West Midlands, 2 in 5 babies did not have a baby check in the following ethnic groups: Bangladeshi, Caribbean, African, and Any other Black, African or Caribbean background.
  • In the North West, 1 in 3 babies did not have a baby check in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic groups;
  • These patterns changed over time, but unequal coverage persisted for babies born to mothers of Bangladeshi and Caribbean ethnicity in the West Midlands and Bangladeshi ethnicity in the North West;
  • Babies were more likely to have had a baby check if they also had at least one of their 8-week infant vaccinations, or if their mothers had their 6-8 week maternal check at the GP.  

Claire Zhang, DPhil student at Oxford Population Health and lead author of this study, said ‘GP practices, primary care networks and commissioners need to work together to figure out the reasons behind unequal coverage. We also need to involve local communities when creating solutions to make sure that all of the services offered 6-8 weeks after birth are meeting the needs of babies, mums and families.’ 

Ethnic inequities in the number of mothers and babies who have accessed other preventative care services such as 6-8 week health visitor reviews, 6-8 week maternal checks, and infant vaccinations have already been reported but this is the first study to assess how many babies in England received a baby check when they were 6-8 weeks old.