Analysis: Disparities in Rural Child Mortality Rates Persist Despite Improvements
While the U.S. is meeting its goals to reduce child mortality, rural children don’t have an equal chance of living into adulthood. The problem is especially pronounced for rural children who are Black or Native American/Alaska Natives.
In December 2018, research published in JAMA Pediatrics highlighted the improvements in child mortality rates in the United States. These improvements were substantial enough that the Healthy People 2020 objectives calling for a 10% reduction in child mortality rates had already been met among nearly all age groups by 2015. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People Initiative develops a set of health objectives every 10 years on a range of health metrics, including mortality.
The overall improvement is wonderful news! However, mortality rates among rural children, specifically, were not presented. To tweak Peter Drucker’s famous statement, “you can’t change what you don’t measure.” If we do not examine rural and urban populations separately, we miss an opportunity to improve rural children’s health.
Our research found that improvements in in children’s health have not been equal across all geographies—particularly children of minority race/ethnicity in rural areas ( December issue, Health Affairs). Using mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we documented that Healthy People 2020 objectives for mortality had been met among urban children across all age groups by 2017, but rural mortality rates in every age group still exceeded Healthy People 2020 objectives.
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