U.S. ranks 30th in infant mortality in the world

Fueled by high rates of premature births, the United States ranked 30th in the world in infant mortality in 2005, the latest year for which international rankings are available, according to a report released Tuesday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

According to the NCHS report, key findings include:

  • Infant mortality rates for preterm (less than 37 weeks of gestation) infants are lower in the United States than in most European countries; however, infant mortality rates for infants born at 37 weeks of gestation or more are higher in the United States than in most European countries.
  • One in 8 births in the United States were born preterm, compared with 1 in 18 births in Ireland and Finland.
  • If the United States had Sweden’s distribution of births by gestational age, nearly 8,000 infant deaths would be averted each year and the U.S. infant mortality rate would be one-third lower.
  • The main cause of the United States’ high infant mortality rate when compared with Europe is the very high percentage of preterm births in the United States.

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, November 4, 2009; National Center for Health Statistics, http://cdc.gov/nchs, accessed November 6, 2009)