Among 25 Wealthy Capital Cities, Washington D.C. Has Highest Infant Mortality Rate Despite City's Recent Progress in Reducing the Death Rate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 4, 2015) — Today, in conjunction with the launch of the annual report, "State of the World's Mothers 2015: The Urban Disadvantage", Save the Children released new findings on the vast differences in death rates among rich and poor children in cities around the world.

Among 25 of the wealthiest capital cities surveyed around the world, Washington, D.C. has the highest infant mortality rate, and the study found that babies from the District's poorest wards are dying at much higher rates than the city's high average. To mark the launch of the report and discuss the findings pertaining to our nation's capital, Save the Children has teamed up with Dr. Kurt Newman, CEO of Children's National Medical Center; Dr. Marcee White, medical director of THEARC in Ward 8; and Dr. Djinge Lindsay, deputy director of programs at DC Department of Health.

According to the report, Washington, D.C. is as an example of many cities worldwide where the poorest urban children are dying at much higher rates than the richest urban children despite an overall decline in urban child mortality rates. The report found that in two-thirds of developing countries the poorest urban children were at least twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as the richest urban children; and in some countries, the richest urban children had an advantage of survival three to five times higher. Other key findings include:

  • In examining infant deaths in D.C., Save the Children found that in 2012 the infant mortality rate in DC's poorest neighborhood (Ward 8) was more than 10 times higher than the rate in DC's wealthiest community (Ward 3).
  • In 2012 the infant mortality rate in ward 8 was 14.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. In contrast in Ward 3, the city's wealthiest ward, the rate was 1.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

"The disparity in infant mortality rates between the urban rich and poor is not unique to developing countries. It's also found right here in our nation's capital," said Dr. Bina Valsangkar, newborn health advisor for Save the Children. "Whether in Malawi or Washington D.C., we need to make quality health care accessible and affordable to all families to help narrow the gap."

Today, health experts and practitioners gathered in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 8 to discuss the report's findings and review city efforts currently underway to lower infant death rates in the city's poorest wards. They also called on local, national and world leaders to act now to help save the lives of mothers and children dying at alarming rates in the poorest neighborhoods of cities around the world.

"Our local government recognizes the importance of giving all babies a healthy start in life by ensuring that women of reproductive age achieve optimal health, before and during pregnancy," said Dr. Djinge Lindsay, Deputy Director for Programs for the D.C. Department of Health. "That's why we are partnering across sectors in the District, like education, housing and employment, to make sure all of our women and families have equitable access to preventive care and community resources that support improved health status and healthy behaviors and ultimately prevent infant deaths."

Over the past 15 years, Washington, D.C. has cut its infant mortality rate by more than half, reducing it from 15 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 births, according to preliminary figures for 2013. Nevertheless, babies born in our nation's capital are dying at a higher rate than the U.S. average of 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. In addition, infant death rates in the city's poorest wards, especially Ward 8, have remained much higher than the city-wide average in recent years.

"We need to concentrate our efforts to save the lives of mothers, children and newborns who are most in need," said Dr. Valsangkar. "Eliminating the urban disadvantage should be a priority for our leaders as they set new long-term goals to end preventable deaths of mothers, children and newborns around the world."

Note to editor: These findings were part of the 16th annual State of the World's Mother report. Save the Children's annual ranking of the best and worst place to be a mom has become a reliable international tool to show where mothers and children fare best, and where they face the greatest hardships, using the latest data on health, education, economics and female political participation.

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