by Amy Spangler
November 01, 2011
Every year 3.3 million babies worldwide die before their one-month birthday. Although 99 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries (1 of every 19 Afghan babies dies within the first month), the newborn death rate in the U.S. (1 of every 233) is greater than 40 other countries including Japan (1 in 909), France (1 in 455), Lithuania (1 in 385), and Cuba (1 in 345), prompting experts to question the validity of the statistics.
“Twenty years ago, the United States was doing better than countries such as Cuba, Poland, and Estonia in keeping newborn babies alive,” says USA Today’s Editorial Board. “Not any more. As other nations improved this key indicator of women’s and infants health, the U.S. lagged, dropping to 41st worldwide in newborn death rates, behind these three countries and 37 more.”
The USA Today essay was accompanied by a response from Dr. Scott W. Atlas, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor at Stanford University Medical Center.
“Infant mortality rankings selectively disadvantage the U.S.,” says Atlas, citing four factors contribute to the distortions:
U.S. public health officials are rightly concerned about infant mortality, particularly its link to lack of breastfeeding. But many argue, like Atlas, that infant mortality rank alone should not be a measure of the quality of health care given the differences in terminology, reporting, and populations. The best strategies for reducing infant mortality are those guided by representative data, reliably collected, and objectively interpreted. The best strategies are those that reduce the incidence of prematurity, asphyxia, and severe infection—conditions that contribute to 75 percent of infant deaths.
The best strategies for reducing infant mortality ensure that all women:
Only then will we see significant reductions in the 3.3 million infant deaths that occur each year. Deaths that regardless of the rankings can’t be distorted.
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