U.S. Infant Mortality Down, But Still Higher Than in Other Nations
The rate of infant deaths in the U.S. decreased by 2% in 2006 but remains higher than that of most other industrialized countries, suggesting that Americans pay more for medical services than other nations but receive lower quality care, according to CDC data, the New York Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 10/16).
The results were compiled through a review of about 95% of U.S. birth records (Lauerman, Bloomberg, 10/15).
In 2006, 6.71 infants died for every 1,000 live births, a slight drop from the rate of 6.89 reported in 2000 and 6.86 in 2005. Twenty-two countries had infant death rates in 2004 that were below five per 1,000 live births (New York Times, 10/16).
The U.S ranked 12th in the world in infant mortality in 1960, but fell to 23rd in 1990, 27th in 2000 and 29th in 2004 (CQ HealthBeat, 10/15).
According to the Times, more than 28,000 children younger than age one die annually in the U.S. (New York Times, 10/16).
Blacks had the highest rate of infant deaths in 2005, at 13.63 deaths per 1,000 live births. Rates for Puerto Ricans and American Indians were above eight deaths per 1,000 live births.
With a rate of 4.42 deaths per 1,000 live births, Cubans were the only ethnic group with rates below HHS' U.S. Health People 2010 goal of less than 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Whites had a rate of 5.75 deaths per 1,000 live births (Bloomberg, 10/15).
Researchers attribute the U.S. rate to the rise in preterm births, which account for two-thirds of infant deaths. The rate of preterm births rose from 9% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2005.
The most rapid rise reported was among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation, about 92% of whom were birthed by caesarean section, according to a recent study.
However, a growing portion of these late preterm births could be for reasons of convenience, according to Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes Foundation.
Fleischman said, "Women have always been concerned about the last few weeks of pregnancy as being onerous," adding, "what we hadn't realized before is that the risks to the babies of early induction are quite substantial."
Some economists say the nation's inability to improve its rate shows that the U.S. health care system is failing, despite spending more than other countries.
Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, said, "Weâre spending twice what other countries do, and we're falling further and further behind them in important measures like infant mortality."
However, Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, said many of the deaths can be attributed to socioeconomic factors -- such as obesity, the prevalence of substance use, gun violence and automobile accidents -- that health reform would not address (New York Times, 10/16).
Broadcast CoverageOn Wednesday, NBC's "Nightly News" reported on the 2006 infant mortality rate (Williams, "Nightly News," NBC, 10/15). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.