$4-Billion Effort Urged to Fight Infant Mortality

Associated Press

The Children's Defense Fund called Monday for an increase of $4.3 billion in federal spending on children's health problems in fiscal 1989, saying there has been little recent improvement in the overall infant mortality rate and a worsening in some categories.

"Saving our babies' lives is not a budget issue," Marion Wright Edelman, president of the organization, said in a statement.

"It is not a deficit issue," she said. "It is not a political issue. It is a moral issue."

The group released a 250-page report--based on figures compiled by the federal National Center for Health Statistics--to underscore its point.

Slight Improvement

The rate of deaths in the first year of life declined from 10.8 per 1,000 live births in 1984 to 10.6 per 1,000 births in 1985, a smaller improvement than in any of the previous three years. The rate was 11.9 in 1981, 11.5 in 1982 and 11.2 in 1983.

"If the infant mortality rate is a barometer of the health and conscience of a nation, the state of the Union is in jeopardy," Edelman said.

Although the mortality rate improved slightly overall, "virtually every crucial indicator of maternal and infant health deteriorated in 1985," said Sara Rosenbaum, an author of the report.

1984-85 Figures Cited

She cited these national statistics from 1984 to 1985:

--Neonatal mortality--death within the first 28 days of life--rose among blacks for the first time in more than 20 years, from 11.8 per 1,000 to 12.1 per 1,000.

--The proportion of underweight babies--those born at less than 5.5 pounds--increased for the first time in more than two decades, from 6.7% to 6.8%.

--The rate of premature births rose from 9.4% to 9.8% of all deliveries.

--The rate of maternal mortality--death of the mother during pregnancy or within 42 days of its termination--rose from 16.9 to 18.1 deaths per 100,000 live births among nonwhite women.

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