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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Infant Mortality Down in US; Still Highest Among Rich Nations

The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics has just come out with a new report on trends over time (2005-2014) in infant mortality in the U.S., and it is a genuine case of good news/bad news. The good news is that the infant death rate has declined over time, but the bad news is that it still remains the highest among rich countries. Indeed, when you consider the overall high level of per person income in the U.S., the fact that our infant death rate is so high is astounding. But, when you plumb the data a bit, you can see that income inequality in the country puts the burden of infant mortality disproportionately on blacks and native Americans. NBC News offers a good summary of the findings:
The report shows African-American babies by far are the most likely to die as infants, with an infant mortality rate in 2014 that's just under 11 percent. Still, that's down from 13.6 percent in 2005.
For white babies, the rate's 4.89 percent and it's 5 percent for Hispanic babies.
For 2005-2014, the highest infant mortality rates were observed among infants of non-Hispanic black women, and the lowest rates were observed among infants of API women.
The causes of infant deaths remain the same: Birth defects are the no. 1 cause, although the rate fell by 11 percent between 2005 and 2014.
"The second leading cause of infant death (infant deaths due to short gestation and low birthweight) declined 8 percent, "Driscoll and Mathews [the authors of the report] wrote. 
"The infant mortality rate for sudden infant death syndrome had the largest decline of 29 percent, from 54 in 2005 to 38.6 in 2014."
The trend data do not show any discernible effect from the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, although to be sure the data being analyzed here do not go past 2014. Still, it is hard to imagine that the type of repeal and replace legislation currently being considered in Congress is going to help improve the infant mortality rate in this country. 

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