The United States could be worse than 40 other countries when it comes to infant mortality.
New research done by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that babies under four weeks old account for 41 percent of child deaths below Malaysia, Cuba and the Czech Republic, among others worldwide.
A report published on Tuesday by WHO said babies born in the U.S. have a higher risk of dying within the first month of life than babies born in 40 other countries.
In the U.S., the newborn death rate is 4.3 per 1,000 live births, although, in 1990 the United States had the 28th lowest risk.
Training more midwives and other community health workers could save the lives of many more babies, Dr. Joy Lawn, a pediatrician who works with the non-governmental organization Save the Children, told reporters.
We know that solutions as simple as keeping newborns warm, clean and properly breast-fed can keep them alive, Lawn said.
The report provided a comprehensive view on the infant mortality rate of more than 200 countries in the last 20 years.
Some countries that outranked the U.S. in terms of newborn death rates were South Korea, Cuba, Poland, Andorra and Israel.
The study also showed that annual newborn deaths decreased from 4.6 million to 3.3 million from 1990 to 2009, and a reported 19,170 newborns died in the U.S. that year.
Half of the 3.3 million deaths in 2009 were in just five countries - India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Democratic Republic of the Congo - in part because of their very large populations.
However, the study's authors say progress is too slow, especially in Africa.
Although the rate of infant death has dropped over the last 20 years in the U.S., preterm birth is still a major predicament faced by the U.S. healthcare system, said Lawn, the study researcher of the Save the Children Foundation, which helped WHO with the study.
It's not that things are worse in the United States than before, it's that the U.S. isn't making progress like other countries, said Lawn.
This study shows in stark terms that where babies are born dramatically influences their chances of survival. ...Millions of babies should not be dying when there are proven, cost-effective interventions to prevent the leading causes of newborn death, she added.
Premature babies need extra care which is often very expensive and unaffordable by the uninsured people in the U.S., doctors say.