In response to a previous post, a reader writes:
What about infant mortality rates? How do you explain that the U.S. is 40-something in the world, way below most developed countries?
The United Nations ranks the United States 33rd in the world for infant mortality rates. No one denies that this is a problem. But the US population is not the same as other developed populations. Americans suffer from higher rates of obesity and have higher rates of teenage mothers. Approximately 40 percent of American babies are born to unwed mothers. Such factors are linked to higher infant mortality rates.
In 2007, economists June O’Neill and Dave O’Neill of the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study titled ‘Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada vs. the U.S.‘ In the study, they pointed out that “a multitude of behaviors unrelated to the health care system such as substance abuse, smoking and obesity” are connected “to the low birth weight and preterm births that underlie the infant death syndrome.”
Moreover, they “show that the efficacy of health care systems cannot be usefully evaluated by comparisons of infant mortality and life expectancy:”
In fact, our calculations indicate that if in Canada the distribution of births by birth weight was the same as in the U.S. their infant mortality rate would rise to 7.06 from the observed level of 5.5. Similarly if births in the U.S. had the same distribution by birth-weight as Canadian births, the U.S. infant mortality rate would have been 5.401 instead of 6.85.
Much can be done to reduce infant mortality rates in the US. But methods to improve this problem lie outside the realm of the present health care debate.