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Infant Mortality

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a live-born infant within the first year of life. As an indicator of a nation's health status, infant mortality can serve as a reflection of a society's available resources and technology (including social distribution, access, and use), the status of women in society, and the health care provided to the most vulnerable segments of the population. Common causes of infant death include birth defects, complications related to prematurity, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and respiratory distress syndrome. In 1996 these accounted for more than half of all infant deaths in the United States. Other causes include maternal and placental complications, infections, and unintentional injuries.

While the yearly infant mortality rate (the annual number of infant deaths/annual number of live-born infants per thousand) in the United States has been declining steadily from 100 in 1915 to 7.2 in 1998, its ranking among other developed countries continues to worsen, leaving the United States ranked behind most Western European countries. This poor ranking internationally can be attributed in part to global variations in live birth definitions and recording practices, but it also reflects racial and ethnic disparities in health status, access to health care, and socioeconomic conditions.


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Peters, Kimberly, Kenneth Kochanek, and Sherry Murphy."Deaths: Final Data for 1996." National Vital Statistics Reports 47, no. 9 (1998):85.

Singh, Gopal, and Stella Yu. "Infant Mortality in the United States:Trends, Differentials, and Projections, 1950 through 2010." American Journal of Public Health 85 (1995):957-964.

Guyer, Bernard, Marian MacDorman, Joyce Martin, Stephanie Ventura, and Donna Strobino. "Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: 1998" Pediatrics 104, no. 6 (1999):1229-1247.

Guyer, Bernard, Mary Anne Freedman, Donna Strobino, and Edward Sondik. "Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: Trends in the Health of Americans during the Twentieth Century." Pediatrics 106 (2000):1307-1317.

Mary Ann Pass

Martha Slay

Greg R. Alexander

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 4