Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Are US infant mortality rates really so high?

I keep hearing that the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. This doesn't make sense to me, given that we are arguably the most technologically advanced country in the world. So I took a couple of minutes to goolge "myth united states infant mortality," and quickly learned that infant mortality is defined and reported quite differently in different nations. While the US strictly adheres to the World Health Organization's definition, apparently we're about the only one who does. For example, we count stillborn deaths, while many other countries do not. We count deaths that occur within the first 24 hours; many countries do not. We count premature births under a certain weight and size; many countries do not.

So it's not at all surprising that our numbers are going to be considerably higher than those reported by other countries. But using those "cooked" numbers to argue that the US has inferior health care is unfair and dishonest.

As always, when considering statistics, it's important to run the reports through the filter of common sense and life experience. If things don't seem to make sense, it's usually an indication that something fishy is going on. Fortunately, it often takes only a couple of minutes on the Internet to clarify what's going on.


liv said...

fantastic commentary on the situation. i love how ardent fans of health care reform as being pushed by the Obama administration love to play the dying babies card. the reality being, beyond the facts that you presented, is that the data is old. additionally, in this country, many people are having multiple births that present in extreme prematurity, and babies die. we push the limits of technology in reproductive medicine, and yes, babies do die sometimes.

Sarah Hill said...

A couple of minutes on the internet does not make anyone an authority on any subject.

Especially when many of these reports come from years of gathered data and research.

Just because you don't want to believe statistics a couple of minutes on the internet will find articles that back up your beliefs nothing more nothing less.