New data from University of Washington researchers shows that worldwide child mortality rates are falling much faster than previously thought, with sharp declines around the world in both developing and developed countries.
The one big developed country not doing so well? Yep, the United States. From the LA Times:
Underscoring historic recent gains in global health, the number of children younger than 5 who die this year will fall to 7.7 million, down from 11.9 million two decades ago, according to new estimates by population health experts.
But as much of the world makes strides in reducing child mortality, the U.S. is increasingly lagging and ranks 42nd globally, behind much of Europe as well as the United Arab Emirates, Cuba and Chile.
And it is not just the absolute numbers either. The rate of decline is even worse. More from the LA Times:
The U.S., which is projected to have 6.7 deaths per 1,000 children this year, saw a 42% decline in child mortality, a pace that is on par with Kazakhstan, Sierra Leone and Angola.
“There are an awful lot of people who think we have the best medical system in the world,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, who directs the institute and is an author of the study. “The data is so contrary to that.”
On to the good news, in that child deaths are dropping fastest in the places where the most kids die – sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: Fromthe New York Times:
Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said [Murray].
And why have the successful countries made such progress on these fronts? The researchers said that governments fully backed up programs to save kids’ lives. They targeted this problem strategically.
And how has the US done, without that health care reform so many people hate so much? More from LA Times:
Murray said high child mortality rates were not limited to black and Latino populations in the U.S. In fact, researchers have found high rates among higher-income whites, a group that traditionally has better access to medical care.
The data instead suggest broader problems with the nation’s fragmented, poorly planned healthcare system, Murray and other healthcare experts say.
Although the U.S. spends nearly twice as much per capita on healthcare as most other industrialized countries, researchers are finding substantially higher levels of preventable deaths from diseases such as diabetes and pneumonia.
When I talk about health care here in Sweden, I always say that if you have money in the U.S., if you are rich, then you get great care. The real crimes are in the inequality.
But, no, apparently I am wrong. The system just sucks for everyone, which was certainly the case for my wife and I when we had our first child in upstate New York.
The second best country? Sweden. Where I live happily with my socialized medicine, and where my daughter is at a special appointment with an allergy doctor as I write this, getting care we never could have dreamed of in a nice American suburb.