Why Is Infant Mortality Important?

Rates of infant mortality are sensitive indicators of a broad range of factors affecting children's health. As such, infant mortality is the "tip of the iceberg" of child health problems, and changes in infant mortality are a signal of factors affecting child health more broadly. In addition to its role as a general gauge of child health, infant mortality itself represents an important health problem. It is well to remember that infant death rates are the highest of any age group less than 65 years.

The message conveyed by infant mortality rates if better understood in terms of the causes of mortality at different times during the first year of life.

Neonatal Mortality

Neonatal mortality rate is defined as the number of infants dying between 0 and 27 days of life per 1,000 live births. These deaths in the first month of life reflect primarily factors associated with health of the mother before and during pregnancy and the special problems of the newborn. Deaths in this age range result chiefly from inadequate intruterine growth (prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation) and congenital anomalies. As a result, neonatal mortality rates provide an indicator of the factors affecting pregnancy, delivery, and the neonate and the adequacy of services in the prenatal, intrapartum, and neonatal periods.

Postneonatal Mortality

Postneonatal mortality rate is defined as the number of infants dying between 28 days and 11 months of life per 1,000 live births, ie, deaths occurring during the remainder of the first year of life.

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