Infant mortality is the death of young children under the age of 1 and infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births. Infant mortality rate is used to standardize infant deaths for global comparisons (WHO, 2019). Premature birth is the largest contributor to the IMR. Other leading causes of infant mortality are birth asphyxia, pneumonia, congenital malformations, diseases and malnutrition. Many factors contribute to infant mortality, such as the mother’s level of education, environmental conditions, and political and medical infrastructure. Improving sanitation, access to clean drinking water, immunization against infectious diseases, and other public health measures can help reduce high rates of infant mortality.
The reported IMR provides one statistic which reflects the standard of living in each nation. However, the method of calculating IMR often varies widely between countries, based on how they define a live birth and how many premature infants are born in the country. For these reasons, reporting infant mortality rate can be inconsistent and may be understated. Of the 27 most developed countries, the United States has the highest IMR, despite spending much more on health care per capita. In particular, IMR varies greatly by race and socio-economic status (“Infant Mortality”, 2019). These numbers are disconcerting given the resources available and technological advances available for health care in the United States. The relatively high IMR raises questions about culture and the impact this racial and socio-economic disparity has on infant health.