Infant mortality: Is it really so bad in the U.S.?

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Infant mortality:  Is it really so bad in the U.S.?

If you’ve been listening to the news lately on health care bills, you have heard that more babies in the U.S. than in other civilized countries.  It’s worth asking how the infant mortality rate is measured in the U.S. and other countries.

According to a 2005 article by Michael Glueck and Robert Cihak, both MDs, the U.S. infant mortality is not really lower than these other countries.  It’s simply that we count every infant that gives any evidence of being alive as a live birth. We do our best to save them and if we fail we count them as a death.

In Switzerland, for instance, a baby born shorter than 30 cm who dies, isn’t counted as a death because the baby was never considered a live birth.

Over one-third of all infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first 24 hours.  Statistics for Canada and Australia are about the same.  However, in France 1/6 of the infants die in that time; in Hong Kong it’s 1/25.  Clearly there is a difference in how a live birth is defined and counted in different countries.  Infant death rates would have been higher for those two countries had the reporting standards been the same.

The authors point out that the “infant mortality rates, adjusted for the distribution of newborns by weight, are about the same” as in other developed countries.

So we’re not behind, after all.

For more information, read their article “Infant Mortality Myths and Mantras” in


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