Health and Science

US has the worst rate of child mortality among 20 rich nations

Key Points
  • The United States has a higher child mortality rate than 19 other wealthy democracies.
  • A child age 15 to 19 in the U.S. is 82 times more likely to die from gun violence than such a child in the other countries.
  • America's higher death rate for kids has persisted despite the nation spending more on health care for children than other rich countries.
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The United States has the worst child mortality rate among a group of 20 wealthy democracies, an analysis released Monday found.

And despite overall improvement in the child mortality rate in the U.S. and those 19 other countries, the U.S. has persistently outpaced those nations in that grim metric for decades, the Health Affairs report said.

"From 2001 to 2010, the risk of death in the US was 76 percent greater for infants and 57 percent greater for children age 1-19," the report said.

And during the same decade, children between the ages of 15 and 19 were 82 times more likely to die from gun-related homicide in the U.S. than in the comparison countries.

The authors of the Health Affairs report said that in the full 50-year period their study looked at, the U.S. had more than "600,000 excess deaths" among kids because of the country's lagging performance in curbing child mortality.

Those excess deaths have occurred even as the U.S. spends more money on health care for kids than the other countries.

Among the countries looked at, "there has never been a better time to be born in any of these 20 countries," the Health Affairs report said.

"Despite this generalized trend, children are less likely to survive and transition into adulthood in the US than in other [countries examined]," the report said.

"Persistently high poverty rates, poor educational outcomes, and a relatively weak social safety net have made the US the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into."

The report comes several months after Congress chose not to reauthorize spending for the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Several states are expected to run out of money for their CHIP programs this month. But it is not clear when, or if, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will agree to restore funding to CHIP, despite the program being popular across party lines.

CHIP covers about 9 million kids. The Health Affairs report noted that the Trump administration, in its 2018 budget proposal, has called for "substantial cuts" to CHIP and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, "which directs three-quarters of its benefits to households with children."

The report's authors said they believed their analysis was the first study to compare mortality among children of all ages in the United States with that in other wealthy countries.

The other countries examined in the study were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In the first decade examined, from 1961 through 1970, the death rate among kids under age 1 in the U.S. was 240.7 per 10,000, a slightly better rate than 250.3 deaths per 10,000 in the other countries, according to the analysis.

The mortality rate among children ages 1 to 19 during that decade was the same in the U.S. as in the other 19 countries: 6.7 deaths per 10,000 kids.

But starting in 1971, the U.S. child mortality rate was higher than the other 19 countries, even as that rate dropped significantly in each decade.

For the decade ending in 2010, the mortality rate among infants in the U.S. was 68.8 per 10,000. In the 19 other countries, the rate was just 39 deaths per 10,000.

Among children ages 1 to 19, the mortality rate in the U.S. was 3.1 per 10,000 compared with 2.0 per 10,000 in the 19 other countries.

The authors of the analysis said that a higher rate of deaths related to babies born prematurely was a key reason for the U.S. outpacing other nations in infant mortality, as was a higher rate of injuries among that age group.

The report also said that for children ages 15 to 19 in the U.S., the two most common causes of death were motor vehicle accidents and assaults involving a gun.

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