Saturday, September 15, 2012
The Elephant In The Living Room - The high U.S. infant mortality rate
The most recent statistics from 2007 show that the U.S. rate of almost seven deaths per 1,000 live births ranked the U.S. behind the majority of other developed countries. Thirty developed countries have lower infant mortality rates, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, all of them spending much less than we do on health care.
Within the United States, infant mortality ranges from a high of almost 10 deaths per 1,000 in Mississippi and Alabama to about five deaths per 1,000 in Washington and Massachusetts. Although the overall rates have been slowly declining since 2000, the huge gap between whites and blacks continues to exist. American women who are most likely to lose their babies are non-Hispanic black women, with a rate almost 2 1/2 greater than that for non-Hispanic white women.
This is one of the greatest injustices in our country: that a baby's chance of having a healthy life is largely dependent on where he or she is born. States and local communities vary widely in what care their leaders choose to provide to women and children. But these higher rates can be lowered by implementing strong initiatives at the state and federal levels. And maternal and child health experts know what needs to happen, based on what's worked in places with lower rates.
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Editor's note: Do Brockporter's care that the infant mortality rate is higher in the United States than 30 other developed countries? Do many of them even know? When is the last time you heard one of our elected officials comment on this shameful state of affairs?
In Brockport a lot of the heavy lifting gets done by Oak Orchard Community Health Center. Outside of that the high infant mortality death rate is the Elephant in the living room. Programs to address the problem are often the first ones cut. While the Republicans push a pro life agenda when it comes to being against abortion, they are against most public health and social service programs that help to sustain life. The high moral ground of the Republicans only pertains to governing women's uteruses. After that they quickly turn on the mother and infant and withdraw support for life sustaining public health and social service programs which the data tell us leads to shameful high levels of infant death. High infant mortality rates is a good indicator of the effectiveness of our health care system in the United States which does not provide universal health care as is available in other developed countries. A health care system, run for profit, cares little for people with no money such as infant children and impoverished pregnant women who, because of their pregnancy will be, at least temporarily, unable to participate in the work force.
In this election season this fall you might ask candidates running for office what they plan to do to develop policy and legislation to reduce our high infant mortality rates. My guess is that they will look at you like a deer in the headlights and brush off your question. Meanwhile, the U.S. is anything but exceptional in the eyes of the world when it comes to supporting mothers and their infants.