Comparing the Health of Children in Japan and America

Children in Japan are among the healthiest in the world, while children in the United States rate low on the list of developed nations for health outcome measures. Given that the U.S. spends more than any other country on health care to ensure the health and well-being of its children, what is behind this discrepancy?

Differences in Infant Mortality

One of the measures used to determine a nation’s overall health ranking is infant mortality, which is the number of infants dying before their first birthday per 1,000 live births. Among 223 nations, Japan ranks second, with an infant mortality rate of just 2.2/1,000. Only the tiny country of Monaco boasts a lower rate, at 1.8/1,000. The infant mortality rate for infants born in the U.S. is 5.8/1,000, on par with Serbia, and much higher than Cuba, South Korea and European Union countries.1 2

Several factors have been cited to try to rationalize some of the discrepancies. An increased number of pre-term births and differences in reporting methods may affect the numbers. Extremely premature infants, born far too early to survive, are counted as live births in the U.S. if they are born alive, whereas they may be considered and reported as miscarriages or stillbirths in other countries.3

Regardless of pre-term births and differences in reporting, the large gap between a 2.2 infant mortality rate in Japan and the 5.8 infants mortality rate in the U.S. cannot be explained. The reality is that efforts to improve rates of infant mortality in the U.S. lag far behind those of other developed nations.4

Success: 50% more U.S. infants die on the first day than all other industrialized countries combined

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