U.S. Newborn Death Rate Trails Behind 40 Other Nations

  @ibtimes on August 31 2011 10:27 AM
Newborn babies
Newborn babies rest in cots. Reuters

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 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 rates 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. 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.

According to CIA World Factbook, infant mortality is defined as follows: This entry gives the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year; included is the total death rate, and deaths by sex, male and female.

If the child mortality rate is a true indicator of the health of a country, the new report then puts a serious question on the U.S. healthcare system. This rate is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country, the agency adds.

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