Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Infant Mortality Drops in the United States

Today, the NYT reports that the infant mortality rate in the United States has dropped by two percent, yet still remains much higher than most industrialized nations.
"Infant mortality has long been considered one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation and the quality of its medical system. In 1960, the United States ranked 12th in the world, but by 2004, the latest year for which comparison figures are available, it had dropped to 29th."
This is even more staggering considering,
"In 2006, Americans spent $6,714 per capita on health — more than twice the average of other industrialized countries."
We spend far more on the health of our citizens, yet we get far less in return. The NYT makes some generalized claims for why this irony exists,
"Some blame cultural issues like obesity and drug use. Others say that the nation’s decentralized health care system is failing, and some researchers point to troubling trends in preterm births and Caesarean deliveries."
I think that it most likely has to do with the highly inequitable health care system which is driven by market economics. Although I do not have any data right now (I'll try to find some, or if anyone knows any good research, pass it my way!), I have little doubt that infant mortality statistics are highest amongst minorities and those in poverty. The Social Determinants of Health, a recent WHO report discusses how health outcomes are largely structured by the social position and conditions in which one lives. If we as a nation value a healthy society as a whole, then we should start to recognize inequity as a driving force for these negative health statistics, and work toward to lessening the gap.


Vanessa said...

very interesting! i had never heard of this before, but i definitely agree that the inequities in our health system are driving this trend.

check this data about ethnicity trends within US infant mortality from the CDC:

jshaffer said...

Thanks for the data to back up my suspicion VLee. It is tragic that we have such horrible health statistics, but even worse that it is so unequally divided. Expect more posts on this topic...