Babies die. Every day, human beings die in their first year of life. And they perish from a variety of causes: low birth weight, birth anomalies, genetic diseases, “failure to thrive,” inadequate nutrition, abuse, stillbirth, poverty. They die at different ages, some without taking a first breath, others at day one or two or six or 137, and some just shy of their first birthday. These abbreviated lives are daily tragedies, tiny tears in the fabric of human existence and enormous ruptures in families and communities. Each death, singly, is a loss—an occasion for grief and commemoration. Such deaths, like miscarriages, are often publicly invisible, unremarked by anyone beyond grieving mothers, family members, and close friends.

Taken together, however, these deaths are transformed into something else. One solitary infant death is combined with another and then another and so on, until these deaths become a social phenomenon, a collective, a pattern, a vital statistic: Infant Mortality. As a statistic, the infant mortality rate tells us something about a community’s health; it is a kind of bellwether about how cities, counties, states, and nations are faring relative to others. For example, in 2013, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.2 deaths per 1,000 births – putting us just between Poland and Serbia and well above the much lower rates of nations such as Japan (2.13), Norway (2.48), and Sweden (2.60). Despite our outrageously expensive health care system, we’re not doing particularly well on the measure of infant mortality vis-à-vis other nations. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog