A study published in Health Affairs in January 2018 reports that the U.S. ranks last among 20 wealthy nations in child mortality. The report was covered by multiple news outlets including a January 8, 2018, CNN news story titled, “Among 20 wealthy nations, US child mortality ranks worst, study finds.”
The Health Affairs report begins by stating, “The United States has poorer child health outcomes than other wealthy nations despite greater per capita spending on health care for children.” The study looked at child mortality rates between 1961 and 2010 in the U.S. and compared this data to 35 other similar wealthy nations.
Some of the other countries included in this study were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Ashish Thakrar, lead author of the study and an internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System in Baltimore noted, “This study should alarm everyone. The U.S. is the most dangerous of wealthy, democratic countries in the world for children.” Dr. Thakrar continued, “We were surprised by how far the U.S. has fallen behind other wealthy countries. Across all ages and in both sexes, children have been dying more often in the U.S. than in similar countries since the 1980s.”
The study noted that childhood mortality had improved in all countries, but that the rate of improvement for the U.S. was slower than the other countries. The study also showed that the rate of child mortality for the U.S. and New Zealand were disproportionably higher than the rate for the other countries in the study. It should be noted that the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries where direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs is legal.
The study showed just how bad the numbers are for children in the U.S., reporting that from 2001 to 2010, the risk of death for infants in the U.S. was 76 percent greater than for infants in other countries. Additionally, the death rate for children ages 1–19 was 57 percent greater in the U.S. One of the more disturbing findings was that U.S. children between the ages 15–19 were eighty-two times more likely to die from gun violence than children in the other nations. When projecting over a 50 year period of the study, the researchers determined that the U.S. suffered about 600,000 excess deaths of children from all causes.
In the CNN story, Dr. Thakrar further explained, “Existing research has shown that infants die more frequently in the U.S., but this was the first time we were able to see that this trend started decades ago. We were also surprised by how much more often US adolescents, in particular boys, are dying from injuries,” he said. “The most disturbing new finding of this study was that a 15- to 19-year-old in the U.S. is 82 times more likely to die from gun violence in the U.S. than in any other wealthy, democratic nation.”
“In as much as health policies will have an effect on infant and child mortality, it should be noted that the U.S. also has the highest rate of intervention in all processes of birth, and medical procedures and in the rate of citizens taking prescription medications.” said Dr. George Curry, President of the International Chiropractors Association. He continued, “Perhaps, as a society, we should step back and ask the very pertinent question. Is this very system that is suppose to be protecting our health, contributing to these excess deaths?”