Babies born in the United States are less likely to survive until their first birthday compared to babies born in other rich countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a new study discovered.
Infant mortality has dropped across the OECD since 1960, but America has not kept up with its wealthy peers in this aspect, TIME reports.
Compared to 19 OECD countries, American babies were three times more likely to die from premature health issues and 2.3 times more likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome between 2001 and 2010. If the United States had kept pace with the OECD’s overall decrease in infant mortality since 1960, the numbers would have resulted in 300,000 fewer infant deaths in the country over 50 years, the study said.
The USA has fallen behind because of factors such as higher poverty rates compared to other developed nations, and a relatively weak social safety net, according to Ashish Thakrar, medical resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and lead author on the study.
The poorer children are, the worse their health outcomes are.
He and his team found that poverty rates among children in the United States have been higher than 19 other OECD countries since the 1980s.
Premature birth and low birth weight are consistently tied to poverty, which affects some 20% of children in the USA – 2nd among 35 developed countries, the United Nations Children’s Fund reported.
Thakrar and his fellow researchers used membership in the OECD as the baseline for similar countries to the USA, and narrowed the group down to 19 members for which high-quality data on the past 50 years was available.
This study supports a 2013 report from the National Academy of Medicine that found that America’s health has fallen behind its fellow wealthy nations. Thakrar said, “Their big conclusion is that the gap stems from risky health behavior and a fragmented health system.”
The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.