Infant Immortality Essay

This essay has a total of 1563 words and 9 pages.

Infant Immortality


Infant Mortality in the United States
Trends in infant mortality are considered to be a
barometer of technology and an accurate indicator of the
health of a society. Despite technological excellence and
numerous social programs offered throughout the country, the
infant mortality rate (IMR) in the United States continues to
be a national concern. For many, "infant mortality" brings
to mind the deprivation and poverty found in third world
countries. Yet in the United States, nearly 40,000 children
die every year for some of the same reasons that cause
infant death in underdeveloped parts of the world
(Anderson, 1987).
Infant mortality is prevalent in this country
despite a richly developed and technologically advanced
society. According to the Census Bureau, the IMR in the United States has dropped almost
66 percent in the past three decades (Eberstadt, 1991). In 1960, out of every thousand
babies

born, 26 died within their first year of life. By 1991, that
number had dropped to less than nine out of every thousand
babies (Eberstadt et al., 1991). According to the US
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the US infant mortality rate in 1987 was
higher than in 23 other countries

or territories, including most of Western Europe, Hong
Kong, and Singapore. The US infant mortality rate was
about 20 percent higher than Norway's, nearly 50 percent
higher than in the Netherlands, and 200 percent higher
than Japan's (Eberstadt et al., 1991). The United States
has not always fared so poorly in this international ranking.
In the early 1950's it ranked sixth best (Anderson et al.,
1987).
The Select Committee on Hunger held a Congressional
hearing on infant mortality in the United States on April
29, 1987. Representative Mickey Leland (D., TX), the
committee's chairperson, acknowledged the continued statistical improvements over the prior two decades. But he was very
critical of the decline of the United States in the international ranking, expressing
dismay that a country as wealthy and

powerful as the United States should have an infant mortality
rate worse than that of 16 other industrialized nations
(Anderson et al., 1987). Through mediums such as this hearing
and other forums, the federal government addresses this
concern and establishes programs that may aid the fight against infant mortality.
The decrease in the occurrence of infant death is, if considered on statistical merit, a valid picture of a society
that is implementing advances in technology against killers
of our babies. The gap between infant mortality rates in the
United States and other countries points to what is principally a parental problem.
Nicholas Eberstadt of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies writes
that the dramatic

increases in illegitimate births, drug, alcohol and tobacco
abuse, and the failure of parents to take advantage of prenatal
care are the primary reasons for the higher than expected
rates of infant mortality in the United States. This social
problem will not be eliminated by addressing it when a doctor
is standing in a delivery room with a newborn baby who may
already have a death sentence cradled in his arms. Instead,
infant mortality must be addressed by educating and providing
social programs that benefit the expectant mother.
In 1960, the ten leading causes of infant mortality in
the United States were (in order of occurrence): postnatal
asphyxia, immaturity, birth defects, birth injuries, influenza/pneumonia, accidents, pneumonia/newborn, gastritis
and other GI disorders, hemolytic disease, and immaturity
with other complications. Over the past three decades, advances
in neonatal intensive care have changed the leading causes of
infant mortality. In 1992, the ten leading causes were: birth defects, sudden infant death
syndrome (SIDS), preterm/low birthweight, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), maternal
complications of pregnancy, complications during birth,

infections, accidents, hypoxia/birth asphyxia, and pneumonia/influenza (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation,
1996).
Since 1960, advances in prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies and postnatal care have
provided more effective preventative strategies and better treatment of neonatal

conditions. This has decreased infant deaths related to
conditions such as postnatal asphyxia, birth injuries, and
bacterial infections. In 1992, birth defects and prematurity,
which have multiple causes and require complex preventative
measures, have become the leading causes of infant death. In
1992, birth defects accounted for 7,449 infant deaths (183.2 per 100,000 live births) and
SIDS accounted for 120.3 deaths per

100,000 live births (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
et al., 1996).
This statistical data points to the following conclusion. The behavior of the biological mother and father before and
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