America, according to some new reporting, has an infant death problem. And it’s something Americans—much less Christians—can’t ignore: The United States’ infant mortality rate ranks worse than 25 other developed countries.
As cited in a long, well researched piece of analysis in yesterday’s The New York Times, more than 23,000 infants died before they turned one year old in 2014 (the most recent information). That’s about six for every 1,000.
It’s worth noting that the Times report suggests America’s poor rate might be linked more to a difference from other countries in classification than a medical problem, per se. According to the report, the US considers “very premature births as infants because we have better technology and work harder to save young lives.”
However, the report also points out, it’s still the case that even when researchers remove some of these categorization differences, the US infant mortality rate is still bad, still ranking below peer countries.
Apparently, a common assumption is that high infant mortality results from poor prenatal care. But new evidence suggests that’s not the case. The real problem actually appears linked to post-birth (not pre) care.
Experts are hoping this shift in thinking is what will lead to a solution. But, at least right now, a solution isn’t apparent. The writers of a new paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, which factors heavily into the Times reporting, reiterates that health care solutions aren’t obvious. But, the writers say, attempts are more than worth it.
The authors of this paper “calculated that decreasing postneonatal mortality to that of comparable European countries might lower the death rate by 1 in 1,000.” Then, they write, “assuming a standard value of $7 million per life, it might make sense to spend $7,000 per infant.”
The writer of the Times’ analysis summed it up:
What exactly we might do with that money is up for debate. One suggestion made by the authors, with which I agree, is that we consider programs of home nursing visits to reduce the incidence of SIDS and accidents. But some things do seem evident. The first is that our constant calls for improved and more prenatal care may not significantly improve our disadvantage in infant mortality. The second is that spending a significant amount of money on poor women to improve the health of their 1-month to 1-year-olds might not only save lives; it might be cost-effective, too.