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CDC Finds U.S. 30th in Infant Mortality
Date:11/3/2009

Finding is attributed to country's high rate of premature births

TUESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- When comparing rates of infant mortality, the United States lags dismally behind most other developed countries, largely because of a disproportionately high number of babies delivered prematurely, according to a new government report.

"The U.S. in 2005 ranked 30th in the world in infant mortality," said Marian F. MacDorman, a statistician at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of a data brief the agency released Tuesday. "The main cause of the high infant mortality rate is the very high percentage of preterm births in the U.S."

Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director at the March of Dimes, said the finding "is an indictment of the way we deliver health care in the United States, and it's a reiteration of prematurity as the No. 1 public health problem in America."

"This gives us direct evidence that the extraordinary prematurity rate in the U.S. directly impacts on infant death," Fleischman said.

Dr. James M. Greenberg, director of neonatology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Research Foundation, agreed with that conclusion, but added that infant mortality "also includes things like deaths from child abuse and from infectious diseases during the first 12 months of life."

In the United States in 2004, one in eight babies was born prematurely, compared with one in 18 in Ireland and Finland.

"Once a baby is born preterm, we do a good job of saving it," MacDorman said. "What we're not successful at is preventing preterm birth in the first place."

Fleischman seemed to agree. "The quality of neonatal intensive care is superb," he said. "We know how to rescue babies who are born very tiny, but what we don't do well is prevent prematurity."

Reasons for this, he said, include a lack of universal access to health care for women of childbearing
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