Washington, D.C., has the highest infant mortality rate in the world when compared to other capital cities in wealthy countries.
In a shocking new annual report from Save The Children entitled, "State of the World's Mothers,"
Washington's infant mortality rate for children under 1 year of age is 6.6 deaths per 1,000 births, placing the city behind 24 other major cities surveyed, including Vienna, Austria; Bern, Switzerland; even Tallinin, Estonia.
The result comes despite recent improvements in infant mortality in Washington, where the infant death rate dropped from 15 per 1,000 in 1999 to the 2013 rate of 6.6 per 1,000, The Washington Post reports.
Children born in D.C.'s poorest area, the largely black Ward Eight, were roughly 10 times more likely to die, with a death rate of 14.9 per thousand, "on par with the capitals of El Salvador and Cambodia," than those born in the wealthiest area, Ward Three, where the 2012 death rate was just 1.2 per 1,000, or "on par with the lowest infant mortality rates worldwide seen in cities such as Tokyo and Stockholm," the Post commented.
While the birth rate in Ward Eight is roughly twice that of Ward Three, only one infant died in Ward Three in 2011 and 2012, while 24 babies died in Ward Eight, mostly the result of premature births, the Post reported.
Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, told Newsweek
, "The knowledge of healthcare [in Washington] is extremely low. The knowledge of why it’s important for a pregnant mom to access prenatal care is just very low. There’s a big education issue here in the U.S. generally, and Washington’s a horrible example of why that’s so important."
"In some U.S. cities, urban child survival gaps between rich and poor are greater than those found in developing countries," the report notes.
Washington hardly stands alone. The report notes that in 2011, Cleveland's infant mortality rate was 14.1 and Detroit's was 12.4, while eight other U.S. cities had infant mortality rates above 8.9 percent.
Citing high levels of poverty, poor access to prenatal and birth medical care, and low education levels, the report states, "Race is also a factor. In many U.S. cities, poor, unmarried, and young African-American mothers are losing their babies at much higher rates than the U.S. average of 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.
"In San Francisco, an African-American mother is six times as likely as a white mother to lose her baby before her child’s first birthday."
High infant death rates are not exclusively caused by urban poverty, however. The Kaiser Foundation stated that Mississippi had 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, while West Virginia had 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, Newsweek noted.
Dr. Marcee White of the Children's Health Center in D.C.'s Ward Eight, told the Post, "It’s my opinion that the women in Ward Eight are delivering their young premature due to the stresses that they experience while they are carrying their child."
Mike Czin, spokesman for D.C.'s Democratic Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, said to the Post, "The Bowser Administration is committed to looking at innovative solutions to address health disparities that exist in the District. The District recently established the Office of Health Equity that is looking at outcomes and upstream issues that are really the root causes of health disparities. We will continue to leverage resources to improve outcomes for infants and residents of all ages."
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