No one ever likes to think about a child dying. When child mortality is studied, the assumption is that child death rates are higher in impoverished countries or countries that are experiencing civil unrest, crop failures or other disasters. What many do not realize is that the United States, with all of its advantages, doesn't have the best stats on child deaths.
A recent report published in the journal Health Affairs showed that among 19 other economically similar countries, the decline in child deaths had been the slowest in the United States. While all of the top 20 countries showed a reduction in child mortality, the decrease for US children was the smallest.
Death rates among children were analyzed from the years 1961 to 2010. The US was compared to countries like Italy, Switzerland, and Canada, all of which are economically and socially stable countries with similar populations to the United States. In the US, the leading causes of death for infants was premature births and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS.) Compared to other countries, a child in the US is three times more likely to die from premature birth and more than twice as likely to die from SIDS.
Breaking the numbers out to age ranges, about 90% of all childhood deaths occurred in infancy and the older teen years from age 15 to 19. Looking at the most recent decade, from 2001 to 2010, infants in the United States were 76% more likely to die than babies in other wealthy countries. Once children in the US reach one year of age, all the way through to their 19th birthday, American children still had a higher risk of death, by 57% than their peers in the other 19 countries.
While SIDS and premature birth were the top causes of death in babies, for US teens, car crashes and gun violence In the United States, the two leading causes of death for teens aged 15 to 19 were motor vehicle crashes and gun violence. Compared with teens in the other wealthy nations, American teens were twice as likely to die from motor vehicle crashes and 82 times more likely to die from gun violence.
Dr. Ashish Thakrar, the lead author of the study, explained in a CNN article, "This study should alarm everyone. The US is the most dangerous of wealthy, democratic countries in the world for children. Across all ages and in both sexes, children have been dying more often in the U.S. than in similar countries since the 1980s."
Dr. Thakrar and the other study authors urged government officials to fully fund both the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to reduce the risk of childhood death further. While healthcare costs are always a concern, the United States spends the most amount of money on healthcare and yet has the worst record for infant and child mortality. Thakrar stated in a release from Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Now is not the time to defund the programs that support our children's health."
The video below talks about the child mortality rate and a possible connection to poverty as a cause, check it out.