<\body> Stories in America: The United States' High Infant Mortality Rate

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The United States' High Infant Mortality Rate

Among 33 industrialized countries, the United States ranked next to last, ahead of Latvia and tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report from Save the Children. The report said the U.S. newborn mortality rate is nearly three times higher than that of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Japan:
"We are the wealthiest country in the world, but there are still pockets of our population who are not getting the health care they need," said Mary Beth Powers, a reproductive health adviser for the U.S.-based Save the Children, which compiled the rankings based on health data from countries and agencies worldwide.

The U.S. ranking is driven partly by racial and income disparities. Among U.S. blacks, there are 9 deaths per 1,000 live births, closer to rates in developing nations than to those in the industrialized world.

"Every time I see these kinds of statistics, I'm always amazed to see where the United States is because we are a country that prides itself on having such advanced medical care and developing new technology ... and new approaches to treating illness. But at the same time not everybody has access to those new technologies," said Dr. Mark Schuster, a Rand Co. researcher and pediatrician with the University of California, Los Angeles.

In the United States, researchers noted that the population is more racially and economically diverse than many other industrialized countries, making it more challenging to provide culturally appropriate health care.

About half a million U.S. babies are born prematurely each year, data show. Black infants are twice as likely as white babies to be premature, to have a low birth weight and to die at birth, according to Save the Children.

The researchers also said lack of national health insurance and short maternity leaves likely contribute to the poor U.S. rankings.
Do you think "pro-lifers" will use this opportunity to prove how much they really care about life and lobby for changes to ensure that United States' infant mortality rate decreases?


At 5/11/2006 10:27 AM, Anonymous timmy said...

Does anyone know if allowances were made for the fact that the United States has many more low birthrate births? The contries at the top are almost exculsively white (black women seem to have a disproportionate amount of low birthweight births compared to whites), and the United States also has higher multiple births (where low birthweights are common).

And what about drug and alcohol abuse by pregnant mothers in the U.S. vs. these other countries? That also contributes significantly to the problem of low birthweight births which, if I dare say, is more of a self-inflicted problem than the fault of the healthcare system.

Another thing: I've also heard that the United States has the most intensive system of emergency intervention to keep low birth weight and premature infants alive in the world. The United States is, for example, one of only a handful countries that keeps detailed statistics on early fetal mortality — the survival rate of infants who are born as early as the 20th week of gestation. How might that skew statistics? If the infant does not survive — and the mortality rate for such infants is in excess of 50 percent — that sequence of events will be recorded as a live birth and then a death.

In many countries, however, (including many European countries) such severe medical intervention would not be attempted and, moreover, regardless of whether or not it was, this would be recorded as a fetal death rather than a live birth. That unfortunate infant would never show up in infant mortality statistics.

Anyway, just some questions. If anyone knows something more about these issues I'd be interested in the answers....

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