There's also not enough attention on social and behavioral factors that affect prematurity, such as smoking and alcohol and drug use, he said.
After declining for several years, U.S. infant mortality rates have stagnated since 2000. Early births, however, have risen 36 percent since 1984.
According to the new report, the United States had an infant mortality rate in 2005 of 6.86 deaths per 1,000 live births. However, 22 countries had mortality rates of 5 per 1,000 births or lower, and the rate was 3.0 or lower in Sweden, Finland, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Differences in the way births are reported, however, could affect some of the data, according to the authors of the report.
If statistics exclude births that occur at less than 22 weeks gestation, the infant mortality rate for the United States in 2004 would be 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the authors said.
That rate would still be nearly double the infant mortality rate for Sweden and Norway.
If the number of early births was the same, however, the U.S. infant mortality rate would plummet to 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the report.
"The suggestion that we would decrease the number of deaths by 33 percent if our gestational age distribution was similar to Sweden is a dramatic way of pointing out this is really serious," Fleischman said.
Though many experts see infant mortality -- along with life expectancy -- as a critical indicator of how a society's health care is doing in general, Dr. Harold Perl, a neonatologist at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey said he thinks it's a "terrible tool."
Figures such as those in the government report don't take into account whether a country, for instance, allows termination of pregnancy if a fetus has a lethal congeni
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