U.S. newborn death rate worse than 40 other countries, worldwide rates slow to drop

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month 2011

Newborn deaths — when a baby dies within the first month of life — are on the decline worldwide but compared to many other countries, the United States is lagging behind, according to a new study.

With National Infant Mortality Awareness Month starting Sept. 1, the World Health Organization released the study in late August. It looked at neonatal mortality (deaths <28 days of age) in 193 countries and over a 20-year period.

The number of deaths worldwide dropped from 4.6 million neonatal deaths in 1990 to an estimated 3.3 million babies in 2009. During that period, the rate dropped from 33.2 to 23.9 deaths per 1,000 live births (a decrease of 28 percent).

But the United States ranks 40th on the list of 193 countries, with a higher rate than most other industrialized countries. The U.S. rate of 4.3 ties with Qatar, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates

Despite the overall drop, eight countries had a rise in the neonatal mortality rate and those countries with the highest rates were the slowest to see decline.

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month is intended to bring attention to the rate of babies dying before their first birthday in the United States.