Neil Z Miller and Gary S Goldman
The infant mortality rate (IMR) is one of the most important measures of child health and overall development in countries. Clean water, increased nutritional measures, better sanitation, and easy access to health care contribute the most to improving infant mortality rates in unclean, undernourished, and impoverished regions of the world.
In developing nations, IMRs are high because these basic necessities for infant survival are lacking or unevenly distributed.
Infectious and communicable diseases are more common in developing countries as well, though sound sanitary practices and proper nutrition would do much to prevent them. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 7 out of 10 childhood deaths in developing countries to five main causes: pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition—the latter greatly affecting all the others.
Malnutrition has been associated with a decrease in immune function. An impaired immune function often leads to an increased susceptibility to infection. It is well established that infections, no matter how mild, have adverse effects on nutritional status. Conversely, almost any nutritional deficiency will diminish resistance to disease.
Despite the United States spending more per capita on health care than any other country,4 33 nations have better IMRs. Some countries have IMRs that are less than half the US rate: Singapore, Sweden, and Japan are below 2.80. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘‘The relative position of the United States in comparison to countries with the lowest infant mortality rates appears to be worsening.