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America: Home to Some of the Highest Rates of Infant Mortality in the Developed World

Here’s How We Fix It

Babies born in the U.S. are 76 percent more likely to die before their first birthday than in any other of the 20 wealthiest countries in the world, according to a report by Health Affairs.

Although infant mortality rates have been steadily dropping in developed countries across the world for the past few decades, the U.S. has failed to keep up. Considering the astronomical amount of money that Americans spend on healthcare each year, these numbers are not only shocking but heartbreaking. They bring up important questions: How did the U.S. end up here? What can be done to fix the current state of affairs?

A Hard Look at the Data

According to the Organization for Economic and Co-operation Development, infant mortality rate is defined as "the number of deaths under one year of age occurring among the live births in a given geographical area during a given year, per 1,000 live births occurring among the population of the given geographical area during the same year."

Interestingly, a report from the Washington Post reveals that the mortality rate among infants in their first days and weeks of life are similar across the U.S., Austria, and Finland. However, as babies get older, the mortality gap increases considerably between the U.S. and other wealthy countries.

Furthermore, the report reveals that mortality rates are due "entirely, or almost entirely, to high mortality among less advantaged groups." This means that babies born into poor families are significantly less likely to survive their first year compared to babies born to wealthier families. In fact, the infant mortality rate uncovers tremendous inequality in America, "with lower education groups, unmarried and African-American women having much higher infant mortality rates," the authors conclude.

Speaking of economic discrepancies, it's important to note that, while the U.S. ranks poorly for their infant mortality rate among wealthy nations, the rate is fairly low when compared to the highest infant mortality rates in the world. According to the data provided by Health Affairs, Afghanistan ranked highest in their study as the only country to break into the triple digits, with 100 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The Causes for Infant Mortality in the U.S.

Although the infant mortality rate is fairly low in the U.S. when compared to the highest ranking countries for infant mortality, there are extenuating -- and preventable -- circumstances that make it so relatively high.

Physician negligence during birth is one such extenuating circumstance. This includes the failure to prevent or control bleeding (typically resulting in the need for an emergency hysterectomy), failing to perform a c-section quickly enough when it is medically necessary, and injuries to the mother caused when a child is born in a breech position.

While this negligence can take a serious toll on the mother that can put her into a coma or even cause death, the effects it has on the baby are equally as consequential. It can cause birth defects, including brain damage, which can lead to the child having special needs for the rest of their life. In the worst cases, birth defects can prove to be fatal for the baby, whether a few hours, days, or months after delivery.

Solutions for the Future

For many families around the U.S., pregnancy is a joyful time where couples count down the weeks until they meet their newest family member. However, the chances of infant death mean that even after a successful delivery, parents may still have reason to worry.

The first solution must be to increase access to affordable healthcare in the United States. Women of a lower socioeconomic status, who are more likely to be affected by infant mortality, are far less likely to have access to healthcare than their wealthy counterparts. They're also far less likely to have information about what a healthy pregnancy entails, as well as how to keep a baby healthy after pregnancy.

It's information and research like this that prove that economic debates in this country -- about inequality, poverty, healthcare -- aren't just related to policy. There are consequences for inaction.

Additionally, fighting for women's healthcare needs to be a priority. There are a number of things that can be done to help keep babies healthy in their first years of life, but sometimes this information is harder to find and even harder to realistically practice in certain communities.

Breastfeeding is one such practice. For many poor or otherwise marginalized women, regular breastfeeding is not an option for a number of reasons. Black women, for example, are far more likely to return to their jobs much sooner after pregnancy and are more likely to work in environments where pumping is not an option. This can have a significant impact on a child's ability to create antibodies and can leave them susceptible to diseases both early and later on in life.

With the proper health education and fairer access to healthcare, the U.S. could potentially see a significant decrease in its infant mortality rate. With all the resources and opportunities there are in this top-rated, wealthy country, there should be no excuse for such a devastating statistic.

Posted by jhamilton at March 21, 2019 4:37 PM
Comment #440310

Surely the liberty of wealthy people are more important than poor peoples babies once they are born…right conservatives? To ensure the freedoms that only us Americans have…well…. sometimes there will be some fallout. And really we don’t care about the other nations and how they do it as long as our corporate health care system makes billions for the wealthy. Who cares if Cuba has a better record than ours when it comes to infant mortality we have the freedom to not care about anyone buts ourselves…right conservatives?

In addition to blame this problem on our health care system in general and Doctors in particular when we all know our system is the best in the world is just wrong. The liberty to die prematurely must be preserved along with the freedom to choose which corporation kills us. After all those who would give up liberty for a lower infanticide rate doesn’t deserve liberty…right conservatives?

The poor people are the problem because they chose badly when it was time to pick their parents. We know they are lazy and drug addicted and refuse to take care of themselves. If they had personal responsibility they would be rich and could compete for the best Doctors and health care like the rest of us. How am I doing conservatives?

Posted by: j2t2 at March 21, 2019 5:19 PM
Comment #440336

Hmmm, spending ones time and money on the internet to complain about how others spend their time and money.

Apparently, posting online and pretending to care about “poor peoples babies” is more important than actually helping them.

Why do anything yourself when you can use government to force others to do it for you. Right leftists?


Maybe. Just maybe. We can rationally discuss problems and solutions in a way that makes you feel good AND protects the right of ALL Americans.

Posted by: kctim at March 22, 2019 9:56 AM
Comment #440359

What are some other causes of the high mortality rate?

After all, 70% of all babies born at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas are by illegal immigrants.

That’s only one of almost 300 Public hospitals in Texas, and Texas is only one of 50 states.

One study reported that undocumented pregnant women are the group least likely to obtain adequate prenatal care compared with women born in the United States.

Therefore, perhaps we should have wide-open borders, get rid of ICE, CBP, and all immigration laws, and let anyone and everyone come to the U.S., because 82% of spending and 91% of hospitalizations are currently covered under welfare (Medicaid) that covers emergency services for low-income patients without regard to legal status—were for childbirth and pregnancy-related complications, and only 70% of babies born at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX are by illegal immigrants.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2019 4:40 PM
Comment #440364

It’s interesting how the same people complaining about low wages, low income, poor access to healthcare, jobs, and other related issues are also promoting open-border and free healthcare for everyone.

So, let’s have wide-open borders, free healthcare for all, and perhaps universal income too, get rid of ICE and CBP, and eliminate all immigration laws, let anyone and everyone come to the U.S., and see what happens?
It’s bound to be a wonderful experiment, eh?
What will it be like when the U.S. population (currently about 328 Million) doubles or triples in a very short time? Perhaps we should ask China and India how their populations are working out for them?

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2019 5:02 PM
Comment #441235

Obama had 8 years to solve the problem.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 5, 2019 6:28 PM
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