Comparisons of the infant mortality rates of different countries have a long and not especially noble history, political mudslinging often taking precedence over scientific inquiry. The United States has traditionally fared poorly in such comparisons, although lately the Soviet Union, whose infant mortality may actually be on the rise, has been a more prominent target of the political diatribe.1
As infant mortality is closely tied to indices of social disadvantage, it is nonetheless paradoxical that the United States, for all its industrial wealth and technological resources, can do no better than a tie for 16th in the international infant mortality rankings.2 There is no consensus as to why this is so, and it has never been clear what role medical care, or its lack, plays in it.
However, a spate of recent work, of which the article by Erickson and Bjerkedal in this issue (p 987) is an
Paneth N. Infant Mortality Reexamined. JAMA. 1982;247(7):1027–1028. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320320063036
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