Infant mortality in Kansas is 20 percent higher, at almost eight for every thousand live births, than the national average of 6.6. The Kan-sas Department of Health and Environment is working with a panel to find out why so many Kansas babies die and recommend ways to re-verse the trend.
What the panel will discover is that too many pregnant women in Kan-sas don’t get adequate prenatal care and bring low-weight, unhealthy babies into the world that are then poorly cared for, get sick and die.
Just how bad is the Kansas record?
Here is a list of nations in which the infant mortality rate is half the Kansas number, or less: Iceland, Singapore, Ja-pan, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and Andorra. Another 16 nations have rates under five — about 40 percent lower than Kansas.
It is much more than a coincidence that nations which have universal health care have low infant mortality rates. The rate in neighboring Canada, for example, is 4.8. Japan is an even safer place to be born — the death rate for infants there is 3.2.
Part of the explanation is attitude.
Citizens in nations with universal health care grow up conditioned to use health care facilities routinely. Where public family clinics are available, pregnant wom-en use them to take care of themselves and their fetuses. After birth, they take advantage of those same clinics to be certain their newborn is properly fed and monitored.
Maybe it’s just a cultural thing, but that study committee will also discover that a certain segment of the Kan-sas population is not conditioned to seek professional medical help and guidance as a matter of course. Perhaps it’s a matter of affordability. If so, it is also worth noting that all of the nations listed above spend far less than the United States does on health care every year and most spend no more than half as much.
It will be interesting to see how many of these comparisons are included in the report made by the Blue Ribbon panel which is studying the high infant mortality rate in Kansas; interesting, that is, to see just how blue those ribbons are.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.