Tracking Infant Mortality

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Tracking Infant Mortality


Byline: The Register-Guard

Opponents of "Obamacare" often defend the status quo by claiming that the United States has the best health care system in the world. Right now. No need for reform or revision.

Supporters of reform scoff at this as ludicrous. Going beyond rhetoric, they often note that the United States has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the developed world. And they're right. The question is: Why?

Some helpful answers are provided in a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics.

As described over the weekend by The New York Times, the report said "high rates of premature birth are the main reason the United States has higher infant mortality than do many other rich countries."

In 2005, the latest year for which rankings are available, 6.3 percent of births in Sweden were premature compared with 12.4 percent in the United States. And in the United States, for every 1,000 births 6.9 infants died before turning 1 year old, compared with 2.4 in Sweden. Twenty-nine other countries had lower rates than the United States.

"If the United States could match Sweden's prematurity rate, the new report said ... the U.S. infant mortality rate would be one-third lower."

"Most European countries - as well as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore - have lower rates of infant death than the United States."

An associated irony is that infants born prematurely in the United States are more likely to survive than those in other countries. "Yet they are still more likely to die than full-term babies, and the sheer numbers born prematurely in the United States - more than 540,000 per year - drive up infant mortality. …

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