As a new parent, you may find yourself wondering about the infant mortality rate in the United States.
About Infant Mortality
When conducting economic research, the infant mortality rate is often used as a factor for evaluating the standard of living in various parts of the world.
The infant mortality rate is expressed as the number of deaths among children under one year of age per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate is sometimes called the infant death rate.
Worldwide, the most common cause of infant deaths has traditionally been dehydration from severe diarrhea. However, health workers have had much success educating mothers about the use of Oral Rehydration Solution in recent years. Today, the most common cause of infant mortality around the world is complications from pneumonia.
Other factors contributing to the infant mortality rate include:
- Congenital malformation
- Infectious disease
Examining the Infant Mortality Rate in the United States
According to the United Nations population division, the worldwide infant mortality rate is 49.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate in the United States is 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. This places the U.S. ranking at 163 of the 195 countries examined for the study. The country with the lowest infant mortality rate is Iceland, with 2.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. The highest infant mortality rate in the world can be found in Sierra Leone, with 160.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. These figures are based on statistical reports valid from 2005-2010.
For medical professionals, racial disparities in the U.S. infant mortality rate continue to be quite distressing. For example, the infant mortality rate for African-American newborns is 13.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. American Indian newborns had an infant mortality rate of 8.45 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Puerto Rican newborns reported 7.82 deaths per 1,000 live births. Low access to proper prenatal care, unsafe living conditions, and a lack of parental knowledge about newborn safety practices are most often cited as the reasons for this disparity, although it is difficult to accurately pinpoint one particular cause of the problem.
What Can Be Done?
As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about the infant mortality rate in the United States. However, it's important to remember that there are plenty of easy steps you can take to make sure your baby stays safe and healthy. For example:
- Put your baby on his/her back to sleep in order to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Consider breastfeeding. Breastfeeding offers a number of health benefits, including a slight benefit to lowering the infant mortality rate.
- Make sure you've taken all appropriate babyproofing measures in your home.
- Never allow your baby to ride in a motor vehicle without a properly installed car seat.
- Discuss any concerns you have about your baby's health with your pediatrician. Don't worry about sounding overprotective; it's your job to keep your child safe.
- Learn how to recognize the signs of child abuse. Report any suspected abuse, whether it's your child or someone you know, to the proper authorities immediately.
On a broader level, it's interesting to note that many people believe the health care system contributes to an infant mortality rate in the United States that is higher than what one might expect. For example, the infant mortality rate in Cuba is about half a point lower than that of the United States. Even though Cuba is overall a very poor country, the socialist government has invested heavily in public health and health care. Quality prenatal care is widely available, and the country's supportive social networks work to address any health concerns new parents may have regarding infant wellbeing. Other countries with lower infant mortality rates than the United States include Australia, Austria, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK; all of which also have significant investments in government-run health care.