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CDC: U.S. Still Lags in Infant Mortality Rates

Preemies, deaths among full-term babies contribute to higher rate compared to 25 other countries

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- More infants are dying before they turn 1 year old in the United States than in most of Europe and several other developed countries, a new U.S. government report indicates. A greater proportion of premature births and deaths of full-term infants are driving the higher rate, which puts the United States below 25 other countries, according to the report, released Sept. 24 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

The report compares infant mortality rates in the United States to those of European countries plus Australia, Israel, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. In the United States, 6.1 infants die per every 1,000 live births, more than double the rates of Finland, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Norway. Still, the U.S. rate is an improvement since 2005, when the rate was 6.87 and had not changed significantly for five years.

When the researchers excluded births before 24 weeks, the U.S. rate improved to 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births but still lagged behind nine other countries and remained about double that of Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. The infant mortality rate specifically among early preemies (24 to 31 weeks) was mostly similar in the United States and Europe, but the U.S. rate for babies born between 32 and 36 weeks was poorer. For babies born at 37 weeks or later, the United States ranked last.

"I think we've known for a long time that the United States has a higher preterm birth rate, but this higher infant mortality rate for full-term, big babies who should have really good survival prospects is not what we expected," lead author Marian MacDorman, Ph.D., told HealthDay. "These are full-term babies who presumably are pretty healthy. This report doesn't directly describe what's going on there, but I think it's more about social factors, such as sudden infant death syndrome and injuries. I don't think it's so much about health care but about the environment and raising a child."

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