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Tuesday, May 9th 2006

Wherein Our Infant Mortality Figures Get Trashed

Well, the press release from Save the Children has certainly sparked ridiculous news articles.

American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the U.S. than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

This is ridiculous for several reasons. Its greatest fault is that it implies this is new information. They’re reusing bogus figures.

The study relies heavily WHO figures which I’ve already chastised as comparing apples and oranges. These are almost universally self reported figures that use surprisingly different standards for what constitutes a newborn death.

The actual study looks at key factors for infant and maternal health and then seperately rates developed and developing countries based on them. The United States rates #10 of all countries in both the categories. Obviously the main focus of the study isn’t the United States, but where the real problem is, the developing world.

Pregnant women, all of Americans, live a relatively unhealthy lifestyle, and we wonder why we have premature infants born at a higher rate. Complications of prematurity are the #1 cause of death the world over, and the percentage is even larger in the United States. As I’ve already mentioned this is a public health issue. This isn’t a failure of healthcare will, and while its true that disparities in healthcare access lead to higher rates of infant mortality for lower socioeconomic classes the greatest thing we can due to improve infant mortality in this country is improve the life choices all Americans and pregnant women in particular make.

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