They may be impoverished, have a maximum wage, and routinely experience shortages in necessities like soap and cooking oil, but Cubans have us beat when it comes to ensuring babies live to see their first birthdays. And so do many other nations for that matter, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the U.S., there are 6.1 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Though our infant mortality rate is an improvement over previous years -- it was 6.87 in 2005 -- it's still higher than nearly every other country in the study. (We rank 26 out of 29.) Or, put another way, it's nearly three times the rate in Finland and Japan (both 2.3) and almost twice as high as Spain or Korea's (both 3.2). Despite recent declines in infant deaths and increased money poured into healthcare here, even poorer countries, like Cuba (4.7), have outpaced us, reports the CIA.
If a country's health is partially judged by its infant mortality rate, what does ours say about us? Turns out, plenty. According to an article in the Washington Post, a group of researchers from the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, and MIT have discovered that not every country reports infant deaths the same. Some countries, for example, categorize a very premature birth -- 22 weeks or before -- as a miscarriage or still birth, since the chances of survival are so low. This discrepancy could help account for our higher-than-average rate.
But they also found that socioeconomic factors play a large role in determining whether a U.S. baby will live to see his first birthday. In fact, our infant mortality rate is due "entirely, or almost entirely, to high mortality among less advantaged groups." Translation: A baby born to a poor mom in the U.S. is more likely to die in his first year than one born to a wealthy mom, because poorer families don't have the same access to healthcare. Meanwhile, in higher-ranking countries like Finland and Austria, poor and wealthy babies have almost an equal shot at surviving their first year of life. As reports like this one show, though we're making strides in some meaningful ways, more work needs to be done to ensure that, despite their parents' income, every child has what he needs to grow and thrive.
Tell us: What's your take on the CDC report? Are you surprised by the findings?
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Image of newborn courtesy of Shutterstock