U.S. newborn death rate tied with Qatar
South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel all outrank the U.S.
Babies in the United States have a higher risk of dying during their first month of life than do babies born in 40 other countries, according to a new report.
Some of the countries that outrank the United States in terms of newborn death risk are South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel, according to the study.
Researchers at the World Health Organization estimated the number of newborn deaths and newborn mortality rates of more than 200 countries over the last 20 years.
The results show that, while newborn mortality rates have decreased globally over that period, progress to lower these rates has been slow, the researchers said.
In 2009, an estimated 3.3 million babies died during their first four weeks of life, compared with 4.6 million in 1990, the report found. About 41 percent of all deaths of children under 5 occur in the first month (the neonatal period). Progress to reduce newborn deaths has been particularly slow in countries in Africa, the researchers said.
Newborn deaths could be reduced by as much as a third with simple preventive measures. And measures taken within hospitals, including providing antibiotics and implementing resuscitation techniques, could reduce deaths by two-thirds, the researchers said.
"We know that solutions as simple as keeping newborns warm, clean and properly breast-fed can keep them alive," said study researcher Joy Lawn of the Save the Children Foundation, which worked with the WHO on the report. "It isn't that you have to build invasive care units to halve your neonatal mortality."
More health care workers, including midwives, are needed to teach and implement these lifesaving practices, she said.
In the United States, the drop over the last 20 years was less than the average drop — 26 percent. And the United States dropped from No. 28 to No. 41 in the rankings of newborn death risk. It is now tied with Qatar, Croatia and United Arab Emirates.