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Child Mortality: Rates versus Rankings

May 24, 2010

Did you read the article in the National Post “Canada not keeping pace with child mortality drop: study“?  If not, click the link.  Read the article then come back here for a follow-up question.


What is the rate of child mortality in Canada?  Surprisingly, the article never mentions the actual rate of mortality now or what the rate was 20 years ago.  I assume that it has declined but the article doesn’t even tell us that fact.  Instead, we are told how child mortality in Canada has not declined as rapidly as it has in many developing countries.  We also read that Canada’s rank has dropped.  Based on the tone of the article, one would think that child mortality is quite high in Canada and that we need to focus much more attention on it.  Interesting.  Can you guess why Canada’s child mortality hasn’t dropped dramatically in the past 20 years?  Because it wasn’t very high to begin with!

If you measure something in a large sample like 185+ countries and then measure the same thing 20 years later, rankings will change.  Some will move up, some will move down, and overall rates will move towards the mean.

The most recent data that I could find at the World Health Organization website was from 2008.  Under-five mortality in Canada was 6 deaths per 1000 live births.  Six.  The median of the 193 countries assessed was 23.  Canada was tied for 30th with 5 other countries.  In 1990, under-five mortality in Canada was 8 per 1000 live births (via Unicef).  Child mortality has declined 25% in Canada.  That should have been in the headline.

Why does the author praise Ethiopia for reducing mortality from 202 in 1990 to 100 this year and criticize nations whose child mortality rates have been less than 10% of that the entire time?

And we’re expected to trust the MSM?

(The Lancet link is here but the full text isn’t available unless you are a subscriber.  I should be able to get it once it is actually published.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 6:34 am

    Another problem with the whole thing is that each country will use a different method when deciding mortality rates. One country will not count any child that dies withing say 48 hours of birth while another country will count every child that dies during delivery so the results are always skewed if you are comparing the government figures.

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