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US has more 'first day' newborn deaths than any other industrialized nation, report says

Small newborn baby.jpg

In the United States, more babies die on the first day of life than in any other industrialized country, according to a new report.

Each year, about 11,300 U.S. babies die the day they're born, which is 50 percent more deaths than all other industrialized countries combined, according to the report from the charity organization Save the Children.

When the organization ranked countries by the rate of death on the first day of life, the United States placed behind 67 others, including Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The report ranked 186 countries in all. Somalia has the highest first-day death rate, with 18 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Luxemburg, Singapore and Sweden have among the lowest, with less than 0.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate of first-day death in the United States is 2.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The relatively high rate of preterm birth in the United States compared to other industrialized countries contributes to the nation's high rate of first-day deaths, said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.

And a lack of access to prenatal care for poor women contributes to the high rate of premature birth, Miles said. Women need access to proper prenatal care, in part to understand their risk of preterm birth and other pregnancy complications, Miles said.

Although overall mortality has dropped worldwide for children under 5 years old, from 12 million deaths in 1990 to 7 million yearly deaths today, less progress has been made in reducing newborn deaths. In 2011, 3 million babies died in the first month of life, one-third of whom died on the day they were born, Save the Children says.

Globally, India has the most first-day deaths, with more than 300,000 yearly, followed by Nigeria, with 90,000 a year, the report said.

In developing countries, simple solutions could reduce the rate of first-day deaths. More than 1 million babies could be saved each year with access to four low-tech products, costing between 13 cents and $6, Save the Children says. These products are: resuscitation devices to help babies breathe; the antiseptic chlorhexidine to prevent umbilical cord infections; injectable antibiotics to treat infections; and antenatal steroid injections to help preterm babies' lungs develop.

"It really it's about simple solutions," Miles said.

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