Infant mortality in the United States

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The infant mortality rate (IMR) of 6.0 per 1000 live births in the United States in 2013 is nearly the highest among developed countries. Moreover, the IMR among blacks is >twice that among whites—11.11 versus 5.06 deaths per 1000 live births.This higher IMR and racial disparity in IMR is due to a higher preterm birth rate (11.4% of live births in 2013) and higher IMR among term infants. The United States also ranks near the bottom for maternal mortality and life expectancy among the developed nations—despite ranking highest in the proportion of gross national product spent on health care. This suggests that factors other than health care contribute to the higher IMR and racial disparity in IMR. One factor is disadvantaged socioeconomic status. All of the actionable determinates that negatively impact health—personal behavior, social factors, heath-care access and quality and the environment—disproportionately affect the poor. Addressing disadvantaged socioeconomic status by improving access to quality health care and increasing social expenditures would have the greatest impact on the USA’s IMR and racial disparity in IMR.

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We acknowledge Jonathan Gordon for his critical review of the manuscript. This work was supported by the Health Policy Center at New York-Presbyterian.

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Correspondence to J M Lorenz.

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Lorenz, J., Ananth, C., Polin, R. et al. Infant mortality in the United States. J Perinatol 36, 797–801 (2016) doi:10.1038/jp.2016.63

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