Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Child mortality rates dropping, study finds, but U.S. lags

LA Times article "Child mortality rates dropping, study finds, but U.S. lags" (May 24th, 2010) argues that
The U.S., which is projected to have 6.7 deaths per 1,000 children this year, saw a 42% decline in child mortality, a pace that is on par with Kazakhstan, Sierra Leone and Angola.

"There are an awful lot of people who think we have the best medical system in the world," said Dr. Christopher Murray, who directs the institute and is an author of the study. "The data is so contrary to that."

The statistic the article uses, however, does not speak to the quality of the medical system. The mortality rate equals the number of children who die divided by the number of children who are born. The number of children born very prematurely in the US has increased dramatically in the past twenty years, as we show in the graph below (click to enlarge).

In fact, the great improvements in delivering children who have a low survival rate may fight any improvements in lowering the mortality rate among more healthy children. The greater number of at-risk children delivered, the greater the mortality rate will be. Such success should not suggest a "lag" on the part of the US, and it may simply indicate that few at-risk children are born alive in other nations.

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