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June 21, 1958


Author Affiliations

Washington, D. C.

Chief of the Children's Bureau, Social Security Administration, U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Dr. Eliot is now Professor and Head of the Department of Maternal and Child Health, Harvard University School of Public Health.

JAMA. 1958;167(8):945-949. doi:10.1001/jama.1958.02990250017004

A comparison of the mortality figures for 1915 with those for 1955 shows that during this interval both maternal and infant mortality rates have been strikingly reduced. Maternal deaths have been reduced from 60 to 5 per 10,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate has dropped from 100 to 26 per 1,000. Further reduction is possible and necessary, for the frequency of perinatal and maternal losses was fourth among main causes of death at all ages in 1955 in the United States. The causes of perinatal mortality need to be identified because they must also be the causes of congenital handicaps in millions of infants who do not die. Differences in mortality between urban and rural patients and between different socio-economic strata prove the importance of environmental factors. Preventing prematurity and improving the care of premature infants are among the immediate problems. For continued progress in the reduction of perinatal mortality it will be necessary to make sure that children who are to be the parents of the future grow up as members of healthy families in the best possible environment.