According to a study that was recently published in the journal, Health Affairs, the infant mortality rate in the United States is higher than any other economically secure, democratic country in the world. Over the past several decades, the United States has fallen behind other wealthy countries when it comes to keeping children healthy and protecting them from harm.
Of the 20 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranked 19th for child mortality, with New Zealand being the only country with a worse ranking.
Slowly Declining Statistics
While infant mortality rates in the United States declined gradually from 1961 to 2010, they did so at a slower pace compared to other nations in the OECD. Between 2001 and 2010, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 75 percent higher than that of other countries, and 50 percent higher for children between the ages of one and 19. The country with the lowest child mortality rate was Sweden.
According to Dr. Ashish Thakrar, lead author of the study and an internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health Systems in Baltimore, researchers were surprised to learn that children of all ages are dying at a greater rate in the United States compared to other financially well-off countries.
The increase in fatalities was caused by factors like SIDS and immaturity in infants, and automobile accidents and firearm assaults among teens. In fact, the study reveals that 15 to 19-year-old boys in the United States are more than 80 times more likely to die from a firearm injury than any other wealthy country.
Systemic Changes Needed
Lindsay Stark, Associate Professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, explained that the main reason that the United States is ranked so poorly is due to perinatal mortality, including how maternal conditions can affect the fetus, and injuries related to firearms. Many of these deaths can be prevented with effective public policy and strong social safety nets.
Unfortunately, said Stark, the United States is failing to put these programs and systems into place, and that is jeopardizing the health and safety of our children. Dr. Thakrar agreed, saying we must think beyond medical care and take a closer look at the environments these children live in. The past 30 years have shown that we have not done enough to provide a safe and healthy environment for children to thrive.
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