Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The U.S. Is Number One ... in Infant Mortality Rates, Among Advanced Countries

A stark reminder from the NYT's Charles M. Blow that budgets are moral documents, and that the Republicans' priorities seem to be self-contradictory, at the least:
Republicans need to figure out where they stand on children’s welfare. They can’t be “pro-life” when the “child” is in the womb but indifferent when it’s in the world. Allow me to illustrate just how schizophrenic their position has become through the prism of premature babies.
Of the 33 countries that the International Monetary Fund describes as “advanced economies,” the United States now has the highest infant mortality rate according to data from the World Bank. It took us decades to arrive at this dubious distinction. In 1960, we were 15th. In 1980, we were 13th. And, in 2000, we were 2nd.
Well, no more namby-pamby 2nd place for us - we're now number 1! Yay! ... Wait, no, that's not right ...

Blow also points out that the Republicans' budget proposal would almost certainly cement our place at the top of this list that we really don't want to be on top of:
The bad news is that, according to the March of Dimes, the Republican budget passed in the House this month could do great damage to this progress. The budget proposes:
• $50 million in cuts to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant that “supports state-based prenatal care programs and services for children with special needs.”
• $1 billion in cuts to programs at the National Institutes of Health that support “lifesaving biomedical research aimed at finding the causes and developing strategies for preventing preterm birth.”
• Nearly $1 billion in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its preventive health programs, including to its preterm birth studies.
This is the same budget in which House Republicans voted to strip all federal financing for Planned Parenthood.
It is savagely immoral and profoundly inconsistent to insist that women endure unwanted — and in some cases dangerous — pregnancies for the sake of “unborn children,” then eliminate financing designed to prevent those children from being delivered prematurely, rendering them the most fragile and vulnerable of newborns. How is this humane?
It's even bad economics - premature births cost the U.S. at least $26 billion a year. Just decreasing the number of premature births by 10% would save enough money to pay for all of the programs listed above, with money to spare.

Finally, here's a rather depressing graphical representation of the U.S.'s steady climb to the top of infant mortality statistics. Like so much else in the past 2 decades, it's not really that the U.S. got much worse - it's that the rest of the world got better, and we failed to keep up.

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