Reducing Infant Mortality Rates

 Infant Mortality Rates in the United States

In 2010, the US had an infant mortality rate of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This was the third largest infant mortality rate among OECD countries, only less than Mexico and Turkey. In contrast, Finland had the second lowest infant mortality rate among OECD countries, with an average of 2.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. However, Finland did not always have a low infant mortality rate. Back in the 1930s, it was relatively high. As a result, the government created a program, the maternity box, in order help reduce infant deaths.

The Finnish maternity box is a box that the Finnish government gives to all expectant mothersas long as the mothers seek medical care prior to their fourth month of pregnancy. The maternity box includes clothes, sheets, diapers, bathing supplies, and toys. Mothers can also use the box as a bed for their babies. The box gives mothers the incentive to seek medical care during their pregnancy in exchange for the items. Some argue that the maternity box program is a direct contributor to low infant mortality rates in Finland, as it provides women with the medical and physical resources they need to raise a healthy baby. (It is worth pointing out that, even though the box reduces the cost for women to have babies in Finland, perhaps encouraging them to have more babies, Finland has a relatively low birth rate.)

While the US government will never be likely to introduce a program like the maternity box in the US, the government can help reduce infant mortality rates by providing resources for mothers to seek medical care during pregnancy. Many infant deaths in the US are linked to poor prenatal care, which is more likely to happen when an expectant mother is uninsured. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, infant mortality rates could decrease in the US because more mothers will have access to health care.

About Julie VanDusky-Allen

Julie VanDusky-Allen is at Boise State University and received her PhD in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2011. Her research focuses on institutional choice and development, political parties, the legislative process, and Latin American politics.

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