The United States is enjoying record low mortality rates in infants, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Center for Health Statistics.

Since 2005, infant mortality in the U.S. has been reduced by 13 percent, falling to 5.96 deaths for every thousand live births or around 23,400 in a year. Health officials are definitely pleased at the improvement but said that the country is still lagging behind other nations. It's important to keep track of infant mortality because it is a great measure of how healthy a country is, reflecting the well-being of women, quality of health care, access to health care, economic and social conditions and practices involving public health.

March of Dimes medical director Edward McCabe explained that the drop in infant mortality is a reflection of the progress being made in reducing premature births. March of Dimes is one of several organizations focused on reducing the number of premature births, which are defined as births ahead of the 37th week of the typical 40-week pregnancy.

Being prematurely born puts infants at higher risks of death. In fact, the report puts two-thirds of deaths in infants as being connected to premature births. Premature birth rates peaked in 2006 before falling in 2013, going from 12.8 percent of all newborns to 11.4 percent.

"Every time an infant dies, somebody out there is crying. Other countries are doing a lot better job," said T.J. Mathews, the lead author of the report.

Compared to rates in Japan and Finland, for instance, the U.S. Infant mortality rate is almost three times higher. The U.S. also ranks last out of 26 high-income countries, even lower than Poland and Hungary that were former Eastern Bloc countries.

Comparing black and white babies, the report showed that black infants recorded higher mortality rates which mean higher rates of premature births. Around 16 percent of babies in 2013 were born prematurely compared to the 10 percent posted by white infants. At the same time, black babies are likelier to be born smaller than their white counterparts, with mothers likelier to have given birth as teenagers or suffered complications during their pregnancy.

According to a study carried out by March of Dimes, the drop in premature birth rates from 2006's 12.8 percent to 2013's 11.4 percent led to 231,000 babies born full term. The organization's new goal is to bring the number further to 5.5 percent by 2030.

Photo: Bridget Coila | Flickr

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