On Wednesday evening, the NBC Nightly News devoted a segment to a recent study involving the World Health Organization asserting that infant mortality in the United States has fallen behind 40 other countries, including Cuba. NBC's Today show and ABC's Good Morning America also mentioned the study briefly earlier the same day.
NBC's Snyderman on Nightly News even seemed to hint that universal health care in Vermont may play a role in that state's ranking that is relatively higher than other states, even though several other states she named as relatively higher do not have universal health care.
After host Brian Williams asked her the reason for the lower number in the U.S., Snyderman responded: "It happened because I think we took our eye off the ball. If you look at newborn health, so much of it is intervention. If you look just in the United States, there are some states that are doing pretty well. For instance, Washington, Utah, Alaska, Iowa, Vermont - which has universal health care - New Hampshire, those are all states that are doing pretty well."
But, when similar studies have been released in the past, some have argued that other countries are less likely to report premature babies in their statistics.
Below are the relevant transcripts from ABC and NBC from Wednesday, August 31:
#From the August 31 Good Morning America on ABC:
JOSH ELLIOTT: And a shocking new study about the infant mortality rate in this country. Researchers say that babies born in 40 different foreign countries now have a better chance of survival than American-born babies. Even those born in Malaysia and Cuba in fact have higher survival rates. Doctors say the U.S. isn't keeping pace with the progress being made in other countries.
#From the August 31 Today show on NBC:
NATALIE MORALES: A new study says infant mortality rates are now higher in the U.S. than they are in more than 40 other countries in the world. Researchers say Americans are not keeping up with progress being made in other countries.
#From the August 31 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: There are new numbers to announce tonight, and they really are sad news for the country, not the kind of thing that instills great pride. These numbers have to do with infant mortality, and we've asked our chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, to join us tonight. What are the numbers all about?
NANCY SNYDERMAN: Hi, Brian. You're right, this,the evidence tonight is in the numbers, and the numbers are not very pretty. expect developed countries to do well when it comes to infant morality, but not necessarily. Take a look at the countries that are usually at the top of the heap. They include Japan, Singapore, and France. They're always consistent in the top tier. But, now, look at this: Cuba, Malaysia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, they are ahead of the United States, which now ranks 41st in infant mortality, and that's a real concern because really we spend more money per capita for health care in this country, and those are the results. And, Brian, no matter how you massage those numbers, we were ranked 29th five years ago. No way to paint this in a good way.
WILLIAMS: It makes me look back at all the confidence of the World War II era, the post-war era, the Space Race, the confidence of America. How did this kind of thing happen?
SNYDERMAN: It happened because I think we took our eye off the ball. If you look at newborn health, so much of it is intervention. If you look just in the United States, there are some states that are doing pretty well. For instance, Washington, Utah, Alaska, Iowa, Vermont - which has universal health care - New Hampshire, those are all states that are doing pretty well. But look at the states on the bottom of the list, the states that aren't doing as well: North Carolina, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, and, unfortunately, at the bottom of the heap, Washington, D.C. One little moment of perhaps brightness, South Carolina, which is always at the bottom of the list, they've put newborn health as an important benchmark. They're inching forward because they're putting people out in the field trying to get ahead of the problem and not just acting after, in fact, they already have a crisis. But we have a, this is dismal and, frankly, appalling.
WILLIAMS: We got to hope this gets everybody's attention.
WILLIAMS: Nancy, thank you, as always.