High infant mortality rates in China have been a consistent problem for the large country. The leading causes of infant deaths in 2008 were pneumonia, birth asphyxia, and preterm birth conditions. According to one study, social factors also play a large role in infant mortality rates. More educated women were more likely to take advantage of prenatal care and delivery assistance facilities. This differential usage of medical care before and after birth continues to contribute to the social origins of infant mortality. Additionally, infant mortality rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas, likely due to the increased access to hospitals and health care in urban regions. One study discusses that infants born in rural settings are four times more likely to die than infants born in urban delivery centers.
Through the increasing use of medical pregnancy care and hospital deliveries after 1970, China has been able to reduce its high infant mortality rate. Newborn deaths in China also dropped 62% from 1996 to 2008. One study says that the driving force behind this new trend is the government rather than the personal disposable income for the average Chinese citizen. China launched an initiative in 2000 to promote hospital deliveries, especially in rural regions. This initiative allowed more resources to be available for pregnant women before birth and during delivery, and it has also increased awareness of the issue nationwide. Now, China has an infant mortality rate of about 16/1000 birth (ranked 112th worldwide) compared to the United States, which has an infant mortality rate of 6/1000 (ranked 176th).
Anthropologists G. R. Delong and P. W. Leslie have recently studied infant mortality in China. They are looking into more specific factors that affect infant mortality, such as the effect of iodination of water in iodine-deficient areas of China. Studying these specific factors of infant mortality will help us gain a greater understanding of its origins and how best to fix the problem. (Article from: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(96)12365-5/fulltext)