How We Compare: American Kids More Likely To Die Than In Other Rich Countries

By on January 10, 2018

A staggering report on healthcare for children in the United States makes it clear: kids are dying, often unnecessarily, because they don’t have the same access to care that children have in other wealthy democracies.

The statistics are staggering. Since 1961, for instance, the study published by Health Affairs estimates that close to 600,000 children in the U.S. died who would have otherwise lived had they been born or living in a different OECD country. From 2001 to 2010 infants in America had a 76 percent higher likelihood of dying, and children ages 1-19 had a 57 percent higher chance of the same outcome, compared to other countries.

These are dire statistics that shouldn’t be overlooked. The wealthiest country in the world has a dismal record when it comes to providing care for its children. Unless things in Congress change soon, those statistics could get worse.

Though lawmakers included funding for CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) in a spending bill before their recess in December, the program that helps kids get adequate healthcare coverage may soon expire yet again. Congress only provided a monetary injection into the program to last until March.

This subject seems like a no-brainer, and it is incredibly disappointing to see the GOP drag their feet on the issue. For a party that is supposedly for “family values,” the Republicans seem unwilling to consider alternatives to help change the trend that has seen hundreds of thousands of children die over the past fifty years. Those deaths could have been prevented, had a more comprehensive healthcare program been offered to Americans, and children in particular.

What’s the cause of the discrepancies between our country and other OECD member states? Infant mortality and death rates for children in the U.S. used to be better than these other nations. But the numbers flipped in period of time between the 1960s and the 1980s, “precisely the time when relative socioeconomic status for children fell in the U.S. compared to other wealthy countries,” lead author Dr. Ashish Thakrar said, according to the LA Times.

In other words, income disparities and extreme poverty, coupled with a social safety net in America that lagged in comparison to other OECD nations, is mostly to blame.

While the rates of death overall went down for every member state over time, it’s clear that the U.S. can do better. If we truly value improving the lives of our children in the years ahead, we must re-evaluate how our country cares for those in poverty and in near-poverty conditions.

Ideologically conservative arguments that favor laissez-faire economic principles over the lives of kids need to be rejected. We can — and should — do more for America’s youth.