THE CW ON INFANT MORTALITY. It�s well known that the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world (about 6 per 1,000 births). Progressive health care wonks have long suspected that sub par Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and cuts to programs like the State Children�s Health Insurance Program are culprits. Last month, the counter-CW folks over at Slate announced that actually, babies die because wealthy American spend a lot of money on fertility drugs, prenatal care, and other newfangled treatments that save otherwise unviable pregnancies and lead to increased rates of prematurity and infant mortality.
As Scott pointed out, yesterday a must-read article on infant mortality in the South appeared in The New York Times. On this issue, at least, it seems counter-intuition will only take us so far: American infant mortality is very much a byproduct of poverty, with all the usual disturbing implications for race and gender. In Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, the infant mortality rate rose from 9.7 to 11.4 per 1,000 births in 2005. Nationwide, white Americans have an infant mortality rate of 5.7, while African Americans have an exponentially higher rate of 14.0.
Poor black mothers are especially at risk for a variety of reasons, ranging from high rates of obesity (which can make ultrasound monitoring difficult and lead to diabetes, thus under-nourishing the fetus) to increased deaths from SIDS, accidents, and disease. Doctors are few and far between in rural counties, and local doctors report that many poor women have no prenatal care at all. In addition, the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, has raised barriers for entrance into the Children�s Health Insurance Program.
All in all, not a rosy picture.
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