April 11, 2005
Minnesota’s Attorney General Mike Hatch recently published a white paper on health care. He titled it, “HEALTH CARE: MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD BARGAIN.” [Emphasis in the original]
Hatch dismisses America’s health care system as a failure. He even titles one chapter, “THE FACE OF HEALTH CARE: PRETTY UGLY.” [Emphasis in the original]
As evidence of failure he states, “The United States ranks behind 47 other countries in life expectancy and behind 41 other countries in infant mortality.” [Emphasis added]
Such is the methodology of those who love big government and promote dream-world solutions. To them, the numbers on a page tells a tragic story that only governments can rewrite. But to ignore the stories behind the story is to miss the entire plot.
Looking more deeply into America’s infant mortality rate reveals not a failure of our health care system, but of our welfare system that proves deadly to thousands of babies each year.
America’s infant mortality rate is an average taken across all mothers and their babies. It counts babies who die anytime from birth – no matter at what stage it occurs – until age one. Our infant mortality rate as of 2000 was seven per 1,000 live births. Let’s consider the story behind the statistics.
Some may falsely construe what follows as racist in nature. It is not. It is, however, astounding, disturbing and a critical concern if we are to reduce America’s infant mortality rate.
The infant mortality rate for white American women is 5.8; for American black women it more than doubles to 13.8. At first blush, some people immediately blame racism for this difference, or they blame poverty.
The infant mortality rate for babies weighing fewer than 1500 grams is 244 per thousand, and the differentiation based on race is only 10-15%. In other words, tiny white babies die at a rate just less than tiny black babies and almost the same rate as Asian babies. The baby’s weight at birth is the most important factor determining his or her chance of survival.
What causes low birth weight is a critical factor.
Based on the total number of live births, black women will deliver underweight babies at three times the rate of white women. Furthermore, while 2.6% of white women who give birth never received prenatal care, that number doubles for black women. Confounding this, Asians, whose infant mortality rate is 4.9 (better than both white and black women) are significantly less likely to seek prenatal care than are whites.
Births to Asian mothers under age 20 are more common than are those to whites and blacks of the same age. Asian mothers also receive less professional prenatal care than blacks receive, but have an infant mortality rate 64% below that of black women, and 14% below that of white women.
Is it possible that, in the Asian culture, families provide a good deal of prenatal care, while the same is not true of whites and blacks? Is it likely that close-knit families play a significant role in reducing infant mortality among Asian mothers?
The impact of families, and especially two-parent families, is stark when single-parent birth statistics are referenced. About 15% of Asian children are born out of wedlock; that number soars to 27% among white women. Out-of-wedlock births among black women are an astounding 69%.
Correlation, of course, does not prove cause – but it certainly raises concerns.
Compared to white mothers, black women suffer twice the rate of infant mortality, have extremely low weight babies at a rate 15% greater, are twice as likely not to receive prenatal care, and more than two-thirds of their children are born out of wedlock.
What does all this say about America’s health care system? Nothing!
What does all this say about America’s welfare system that began with the Great Society programs of the 1960s at a time when only 17% of black women gave birth out of wedlock? Everything!
America’s health care system has given us incredible life-saving procedures for tiny babies – like Rumaisa Rahman, born at 8.6 ounces who left the hospital months later, a healthy and robust 5.5 pounder. Our health care system is the hope of infants fighting for life, not the cause of their death.
America’s welfare policy, however, shows what can happen when governments over-step to solve human problems.
Better that we fight for intact two-parent families than to tear down our robust health care system, and replace it with a big-government system.
1. All the numbers in this column are taken form the National Vital Statistics Report, Vol 50, No 12, August 28, 2002, the last year for which such comprehensive statistics are available. These tables indicate an infant mortality rate of 7 per thousand live births. That number dropped to 6.7 during 2004.
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