Take infant mortality. Surely as the richest nation and one that spends the most on health care, America should have the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Instead, a baby born in the United States is more likely to die before its first birthday than one born in Poland or Slovakia. According to the Centers for Disease Control, we’re at the bottom of the list of wealthy countries in this category.
The bottom of the list. Just as we are when it comes to guaranteeing paid leave.
But paid parental leave makes a difference. Research on European leave policies found paid leave is a relatively cost-effective way to reduce infant mortality. Mothers can better afford the time for pre-natal care; parents can look after their infants and make sure they get needed well-baby visits. Paid leave also helps increase rates of breastfeeding which lowers rates of infant illness and saves billions in hospitalization costs.
How about maternal mortality? While many countries have seen a decline, the rate in the U.S. has doubled. And according to the CDC, African-American women are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than white women in the United States. It can’t help that nearly one in four pregnant employees in this country may return to the job within two weeks of delivery.
That rate is not just alarming — it’s shameful. Affordable time for pre-natal care and rest for high-risk pregnancies can help save mothers’ lives.