According to researchers at the World Health Organization, babies in the United States have a higher risk of mortality during their first month of life compared to babies born in 40 other countries. While newborn mortality rates have decreased globally over the last 20 years, progress to lower these rates has been slow. In 2009, approximately 3.3 million babies died globally during their first four weeks of life, compared to 4.6 million 19 years prior. In particular, complications from preterm birth continue to impact the United States. The U.S. preterm birthrate is double that of countries in Europe and Northern Africa. Thus, babies who are born preterm need extra care, which often is out of reach for disadvantaged Americans.
Globally, there could be a reduction in newborn mortality rates by two-thirds if more babies were provided antibiotics, resuscitation, warmth, clean atmospheres, and their mother’s breast milk. Joy Lawn of the Save the Children Foundation, a World Health Organization partner on the report, explains, “It isn’t that you have to build invasive care units to halve your neonatal mortality.” More health care workers, including midwives, are needed to teach and implement the measures above.
Despite the United States being ranked No. 41 of more than 200 countries on the list, newborn mortality rates are much worse in other countries. China, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan account for more than half of the world’s newborn deaths. India has the most with 900,000 per year according to researchers.
Does the United States’ ranking surprise you? Or is this additional evidence that we need stronger healthcare reform?
Not surprising at all, but sad and unnecessary. We need more skilled birth caregivers workers in currently underserved communities. Not medical personnel, but skilled midwives, doulas and other caregivers to attend to the needs of pregnant women and babies before, during and after birth. As a student-doula, I plan on being one of them.