A new report has revealed that almost one in five child deaths in Redbridge since 2008 has been due to people having children with their own relatives.
The council's Health and Wellbeing Board has been researching ways to address the continued problem of genetic abnormalities in children whose parents are closely related - so-called 'consanguineous' relationships. A consanguineous marriage is defined as one between two people who are first cousins or closer, and they are legal in the UK.
The council found that these types of marriages are most common in the Pakistani community, which is also the case in the rest of the country. Out of all of the child deaths in Redbridge between 2008 and 2016, 19% could be directly attributed to a consanguineous relationship. 9% of the deaths were from Pakistani families.
In 2009-10 the borough recorded its highest ever number of interfamily marriages. In this year, the second most common cause of child death was genetic problems.
Council officials have now begun an education programme, giving out leaflets explaining the risks of these marriages to communities in which they are common.
The leaflet, sent to ITV News, explains that while an unrelated couple have a 3% chance of their baby having a genetic defect, this is doubled to 6% in interfamily relationships. However, councillors say the practice is so ingrained in some cultures that certain communities are 'struggling to accept' the information and advice.
Schools are also being encouraged to place a larger emphasis on genetics in their science lessons, so children can learn about the risks for themselves.
The council said these measures appeared to be having an effect on reducing the number of child deaths.