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Big Drop in Infant Mortality

In one of the best pieces of news I've heard in a long time, a recent study suggests that infant mortality has plummeted around the world in recent years.  In 1990 11.9 million children died before reaching the age of five; today that figure is only 7.7 million.  Even Ethiopia, which had an infant mortality rate of over 2 percent (not .2 percent, but 2 percent) in 1990, has seen that rate cut in half in the past twenty years.

Some have already seized on the fact that the United States now comes in 49th among the world's countries (it was 29th in 1990) when it comes to infant mortality, claiming that this reflects negatively on the U.S. health care systemAu contraire, says economist Steven Horwitz, who reminds us that far more babies are delivered pre-term in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and babies born prematurely have a much higher than normal mortality rate.  "So the next time someone tells you," Horwitz concludes,

...that Cuba's healthcare system is better than that in the US because it has a lower infant mortality rate, the proper response is "yes, that's what happens when your system is so awful that you can't do much of anything for children born prematurely and your only choice is to deliver them stillborn.  If you think a system with more dead babies is better, you can have it."  A lower infant mortality rate doesn't mean you have fewer dead babies.  You just have fewer babies born alive.


Categories > Health Care

Discussions - 3 Comments

The author provided exactly zero sources for his argument, which definitely leaves out a thing or two. Firstly, there are many factors behind pre-term births, and not all of them are necessarily indicative of something positive to begin with. Do we know that Cuba and the US have similar RATES of pre-term births to begin with? Multiple pregnancies - which of course, frequently come with reproductive technologies, that are not without their own controversy - are a significant factor, as are infections and bleeding. Perhaps Cuba has less of those to begin with? Do Cuba and the US have the same RATE of pre-term births? I highly doubt that the blogger has sorted through the various factors (including age of mother) to be able to claim what he's claiming.

This might not mean much to folks here, but what about MATERNAL mortality?

Why doesn't the US even approach the low rates of Canada, Poland, UK, Serbia, Croatia, Sweden, Slovakia, or Germany? Sure, celebrate that we're better than Cuba, but if Cuba's so awful then that's hardly much cause for celebration, is it? We're #39!! Go team?

If we are comparing apples to apples, then we would notice that most of these "superior" nations are smaller and far more ethnically homogeneous than the U.S. We might also notice that few of these "superior" nations contend with the enormous immigrant flow of poor people we have in this country.

And, I might add, some of these nations "cheat." Japan, for instance, doesn't count a child as a live-birth until after 3 days, thus conveniently dodging much "infant mortality."

So, let's only count citizens and start again, shall we?

Let me amend that. Actually, it's black infant mortality that is problematic. In most states, it's at least double that of whites, and in some places triple. Mostly due to low birth weight, which may or may not be ameliorated by "health care."

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