Health experts from across the country meet in the North-East today for a regional summit to bring down smoking rates in pregnant mothers.

The Smoking and Maternal and Child Health conference will see health chiefs discuss and identify how to reduce smoking rates among women of child bearing age.

Smoking remains the number one cause of premature death in the region and up to half the difference in life expectancy between the most and least affluent groups is because of smoking.

The topic has already been given major focus in the region's first health strategy, Better Health Fairer Health, which was launched last month and focuses on reducing the rates of smoking in pregnancy.

Now the summit on Teesside has been organised by Fresh, Smoke Free North-East, which is urgently calling for a review of the work currently being delivered in the region to address the issue of smoking and pregnancy, as well as reducing health inequalities among pregnant women.

Ailsa Rutter, director for Fresh said: "Smoking can compromise the capacity to have a family, and parental smoking can have long term and serious consequences for child health."

"Exposure to secondhand smoke is a risk during pregnancy, and harms infants and children, but the good news is that quitting smoking reduces or eliminates many of the risks to reproductive life and health."

She said the summit would act as a vital forum for all health professionals to thoroughly address smoking and pregnancy.

"Clear messages on the dangers of smoking and pregnancy must be given to women and their families in general and not just after a pregnancy occurs. We hope that the summit will enhance the importance of this issue and make it a much greater priority within the whole health service."

Although the North-East has good support for pregnant women and their families to quit smoking through the local NHS Stop Smoking Services, smoking rates among pregnant women remain high, with around 25% of babies in the North-East born to mothers who have smoked throughout pregnancy.

The health strategy, which aims to transform the health of the region within a generation, is proposing to publish six monthly statistics on smoking during pregnancy as part of a wider marketing campaign to highlight the danger to babies of smoking during and after pregnancy.

It is proposed that a formal regional prevalence target should be adopted, aiming for a regional prevalence of no more than 23% by the end of 2010 and 20% or below the national average by 2015 and an absolute level of only 10% by 2032.

ash

Tag Cloud