In a new study of childhood mortality rates between 1961 and 2010 in the United States and 19 economically similar countries, researchers report that while there’s been overall improvement among all the countries, the U.S. has been slowest to improve.
Researchers found that childhood mortality in the U.S. has been higher than all other peer nations since the 1980s; over the 50-year study period, the U.S.’s “lagging improvement” has amounted to more than 600,000 excess deaths.
A report of the findings, published Jan. 8 in Health Affairs, highlights when and why the U.S.’s performance started falling behind peer countries, and calls for continued funding of federal, state and local programs that have proven to save children’s lives.
Among the leading causes of death for the most recent decade, the researchers say, were premature births and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Children in the U.S. were three times more likely to die from prematurity at birth and more than twice as likely to die from SIDS.