Newborn survival rate in U.S. ranks surprisingly low

Infant death rate high in U.S. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.

A 20 year analysis of newborn death rates around the world published in PLoS Medicine showed that the number of newborn deaths in the United States ranked 41 out of 45 among industrialized countries, equal with Qatar and Croatia.

The World Health Organization and Save the Children conducted the study, which also showed that the number of infants who die  before they are 4 weeks old account for 41% of child deaths worldwide.

Countries with lower newborn death rates than the U.S. included Cuba, Malaysia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

America’s low ranking among modern nations, while surprising to those who consider the U.S. health care system as the best in the world,  may be partially explained by preterm delivery (delivering before 37 weeks). Preterm delivery is a leading cause of newborn deaths and the U.S. has more than a half million premature babies (1 in every 8) born each year.

Since 1990, the United States has seen a 26% reduction in newborn deaths. Dr. Joy Lawn, the author of the study, said “We have seen the numbers come down in the U.S. but at a notably slower rate than other countries…We actually found 50 countries, including China, have dropped their newborn death rate by more than 50% in the last 20 years.”

Five countries, Pakistan, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Nigeria have half of the 3.3 million newborn deaths that occur around the world. Researchers are hopeful that newborn death rates in these regions can be decreased by utilizing known strategies like improving hygiene when a baby is born, breastfeeding and keeping babies warm after birth.