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Fault Lines

America's infant mortality crisis

As healthcare spending continues to grow, Fault Lines examines why so many babies are dying in the US.

Last Modified: 26 Sep 2013 10:26
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Every year in the US over 11,000 babies die on the day they are born. Most of them are just born too early, with their vital organs, heart and lungs, still unformed. And even those who survive beyond 24 hours often die before their first birthday.

We are not anywhere close to being that vigilant about trying to practice preventative medicine, about trying to keep families out of crisis.

Arthur James MD, Ohio Better Birth Outcomes 

But if a baby is African-American, it is more than twice as likely to die before the first birthday.

"Just under 40 percent of the babies that are born are African-American, but they contribute to 70 percent of the babies who die in the first year of their life. So you have this huge, huge disparity and that's kind of business as usual, it's been going on for decades," says Dr Arthur James, the co-director of Ohio Better Birth Outcomes.

Fault Lines travels to Cleveland, Ohio, America’s 'infant mortality capital' - where the rates of premature birth and infant death in many neighbourhoods exceed those of developing nations. So what is causing these deaths? And what is being done to stop it?

"Every public official will hold up a baby, will talk about how children are our greatest assets, but it seems to some commmunities and the communities that I represent that some babies matter more than others," says Senator Charleta Tavares, who has been working for years to redress racial health disparities in Ohio.

Sebastian Walker goes inside the neo-natal intensive care unit at Cleveland’s public hospital as doctors rush to save the lives of the city’s premature infants.

Fault Lines speaks to mothers experiencing loss and those whose babies are at risk to find out why the US, a country that spends so much on healthcare and is believed to have one of the best neo-natal intensive care units in the world, is failing to ensure the health of its newest citizens.

Fault Lines can be seen on Al Jazeera English each week at the following times GMT: Wednesday: 2230; Thursday: 0930; Friday: 0330; Saturday: 1630.

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Al Jazeera
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