Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Ill Health USA

The U.S. spent $3.3 trillion on health care in 2016 — the most of any developed country. Yet for the past 50 years, it's had the highest child mortality rate of any other wealthy nation, and some researchers say it's all due to poverty.

The most notable gap is in infant deaths. A recent report found most arose from perinatal conditions like premature birth, injuries and malnutrition. Some studies have pointed out discrepancies in how different countries report premature births, but those differences can only explain about 40 percent of the U.S. mortality rate, which still leaves a relatively large number of infant deaths.

Americans in their mid teens to late teens were most likely to die from car accidents and firearm assaults. In fact, those kids are 82 times as likely to die from a gun-related incident than in other countries.

The U.S. has had one of the highest child poverty rates among developed nations since the 1980s, and that data seems to follow the same trend as child health. A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine argued the U.S.' poor health statistics stem from a person's socioeconomic status, as well as the country's fragmented health system.

Poverty can limit access to quality health care, including during and after pregnancy. For instance, babies born to wealthier, better educated parents have been found to fare better than babies of poorer parents in impoverished communities. Mothers who cannot access prenatal care have a higher risk of infant death. 

Poverty can limit access to quality health care, including during and after pregnancy. For instance, babies born to wealthier, better educated parents have been found to fare better than babies of poorer parents in impoverished communities. Mothers who cannot access prenatal care have a higher risk of infant death.

This is especially true for rural communities, where 12 percent of Americans are uninsured and where affordable health care is scarce. It also affects babies born in poorer states with large minority populations, like Mississippi and Alabama. They're more than twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared with those born in states like Massachusetts and Vermont.

According to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, the mortality rate from 2001 to 2010 for US infants (0-1 years old) was 76% higher than the combined rate across 19 other rich countries in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Mortality rates in the US are also 57% higher for those ages 1-19. The study is the first of its kind to compare child and adolescent death rates in the US to similarly wealthy countries.

No other country examined in the study had a child mortality rate even close to that of the US. New Zealand has a similar death rate among 1-19 year olds, but their infant mortality rates are less than half that in the US. “Persistently high poverty rates, poor educational outcomes, and a relatively weak social-safety net have made the US the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into,” write the researchers.

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