May 7, 2013
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America has the highest death rate for newborns on their first day in the industrialized world, according to the annual "Surviving the First Day" report published by Save the Children, an international aid group. An estimated 11,300 babies don't make it past their first day in the United States. "This is 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined," write the authors of the report.
A baby born in America is 4 times more likely to die on their first day than a child born in countries with the lowest rate of mortality. Iceland, Sweden, and Luxembourg have the lowest rate of first day mortality, while Canada and Switzerland rank as the second and third worst places to be a newborn, after the US.
Why does the "richest country in the world" do so poorly by its children? Like many matters of life and death in America, the answer appears to lie in extreme wealth inequality: the well off are far more likely to have quality pre-natal care. The report notes that the number 1 cause of newborn death is premature birth, which is more likely to happen to teen mothers. Teen mothers are more likely to give premature birth in part because they get worse prenatal care, because they are more likely to be poor.
The report points out that poor and minority women in general are more likely to have babies that are underweight and to give premature birth. "Poverty, racism and stress are likely to be important contributing factors to first-day deaths in the United States and other industrialized countries," they write.