Sep 19 11:34 AM

6 articles you should read about infant mortality in the U.S.

Friday, September 20th, at 9:30p EST, our new Fault Lines episode "America's Infant Mortality Crisis" airs on Al Jazeera America. In this episode, Fault Lines' correspondent, Sebastian Walker, travels to Cleveland, Ohio—America’s infant mortality capital—where the rates of premature birth and infant death in many neighborhoods exceed those of developing nations.

Here's some background reading for the episode.

We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on September 21, 2013, 7p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English on September 25, 2013.

We will be livetweeting this episode Sunday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines.   

"REPORT: The U.S Has The Highest First-Day Infant Death Rate In The Industrialized World", Tara Culp-Ressler for Think Progress, May 7, 2013

Each year, about one million infants around the world die on the same day they’re born. That figure includes about 11,300 U.S. babies — the highest first-day infant mortality rate of any other country in the industrialized world, according to a new report from Save the Children. In fact, the United States’ rate of first-day infant death is 50 percent more than all the other industrialized countries in the report combined.

Many babies who die at birth were born too early, and others suffer infections or complications at birth. Many of those infants could be actually be saved with fairly cheap medical interventions, the advocacy group says. The first day of life is the most dangerous day for mothers and babies, but expanding access to several products that cost under $6 each — bag-and-mask devices to help babies breathe, antiseptic to prevent umbilical cord infections, antibiotics to treat infections, and steroids to delay pre-term labor — could help save an estimated one million infants around the world.

"Infant Mortality and African Americans", The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, 2013

African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. They are almost four times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birthweight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants.

  • African Americans had twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, in 2009.
  • African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.
  • The infant mortality rate for African American mothers with over 13 years of education was almost three times that of Non-Hispanic White mothers in 2005.

"U.S. has highest first-day infant mortality out of industrialized world, group reports", Michelle Castillo for CBS New, May 7, 2013

A new report reveals that the United States has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world.

About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U.S. each year, 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined, the report's authors stated.


The problem in the U.S. is that many of the babies born here are premature. Miles said that means that most women, especially poor mothers, aren't getting enough access to medical care.

"We need to make sure particularly poor mothers get access to quality prenatal care and actually go to the doctor and go to the doctor on a regular basis," she said.

"Infant Death Rate Declines 12% in U.S. Since 2005", Elizabeth Lopatto for, Apr 17, 2013

The number of U.S. children who died in 2011 within a year of birth in 2011 declined 12 percent from 2005, as fewer babies are born prematurely, health authorities reported.

Six in 1,000 children died within their first year in 2011 compared with 6.9 per 1,000 in 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of children who die in their first year is often used as an indicator of health in a country. 


The leading cause of infant death in the U.S. was birth defects, followed by premature births. Newborns are considered to be full term after 40 weeks of gestation. Those health issues, along with sudden infant death syndrome, maternal complications and unintentional injuries accounted for more than half of the infant deaths in 2011.

"Expert says infant mortality rate near University Circle exceeds that of some Third World countries", PolitiFact Ohio, April 4th, 2013

According to an analysis by the Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center) few sanctions are imposed for the poor care provided by nursing facilities identified by the Federal Government as among those providing the poorest quality of care and quality of life to residents – Special Focus Facilities (SFFs).  The Center's analysis documents an enforcement system that is weak and timid in dealing with even the poorest quality nursing facilities and debunks the industry's claim that the federal enforcement system is overly stringent, punitive, and unfair.  

"Ohio lawmakers aim to end high infant mortality rates", Brandon Blackwell for, July 24, 2013

Two state lawmakers are set on improving Ohio’s abysmal infant mortality rates.

Sens. Shannon Jones and Charleta Tavares plan to meet with health professionals and community members across the state to discuss how Ohio can address some of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation.

Ohio ranks 48th in the nation in overall infant mortality, 49th in black infant mortality and 37th in white infant mortality, according to National Center of Health Statistics.

“No matter how you slice this problem, it’s significant and way worse than the national average,” said Jones, a Southwest Ohio Republican and chair of the Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee.

Statistics provided by Jones and Tavares show that between 2000 and 2010, infant mortality in Ohio grew by 3 percent. The national average decreased by 11 percent during the same period, the data showed.

Further Reading:

"Trends in births to Cleveland mothers and teens", 2000 - 2007, 
Cleveland Department of Public Health, January 2010

Ohio Infant Mortality Task Force, Ohio Department of Health




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