Hot! Infant mortality figures vary across Canada

TheGlobeandMail.com – National – Nova Scotia cites better obstetric care of its low rate
Published on Friday, May. 21, 2010.  Last updated on Saturday, May. 22, 2010.  Lisa Priest

Canada ranks 24th in infant mortality, according to OECD figures, with a rate of 5.1 per 1,000 births in 2007.

Some provinces, however, are faring better than others. Statistics Canada figures reveal that Nunavut has the highest number of infant deaths – 15.1 per 1,000 live births in 2007. Infant mortality is defined as babies who die at less than one year of age.

Nova Scotia has the lowest infant mortality rate, with 3.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in what Douglas McMillan, a neonatologist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, attributes to better obstetric care. That province’s reproductive-care program was one of the first in Canada when it was established in 1973.

British Columbia, with a rate of four deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007, has a perinatal health program, which makes sure babies do not fall between the cracks in the health-care system. Its infant transport team has specially trained paramedics, says Kim Williams, the provincial executive director of Perinatal Services BC.

Manitoba has a high rate of infant mortality, at 7.3 per 1,000 live births in 2007, due in part to a larger aboriginal population with disparities in income and great extremes in birth weight. The province struck a task force, and a report released in 2008 identified 25 initiatives to fix the problem. The government spent $1.1-million to implement 13 of them, with priorities being services for women who must relocate to give birth, facilitating access to specialist consultation with midwives and physicians across the province.

Ontario’s rate of 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007 reflects the Canadian average. The province says it has set out a program called BORN – Better Outcomes Registry and Network – which works with women and families, health-care providers, hospitals and others to improve Ontario’s maternal-infant health services, and to get children and families off to the best start.

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