Infant Mortality in China


Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. According to the World Factbook, China was recently ranked the 110th highest mortality rate compared to every other country in 2013. According to this study China had an average of 15 deaths for every 1,000 live births. During 1990—2008, the mortality rates in neonates, post-neonatal infants, and children were reduced by 70%. Although the infant mortality rate has dropped in China over the past few years it is still a major issue that should be addressed. The leading causes of deaths in 2008 were pneumonia, birth asphyxia, and preterm birth complications, each accounting for 15—17% of all deaths. Congenital abnormalities and accidents increased in importance during this period, contributing to 11% and 10% of child deaths, respectively, and sudden infant death syndrome was responsible for 5% of infant deaths. According to an article posted in 2010 stated “children born in rural China are three to six times more likely to die before they turn 5 than those in the cities”. Politically I believe China’s government should be most involved in solving this crisis. The Chinese government should be creating health plans that are practical for all soon to be mothers. Culturally we see that there is a difference in infant mortality rates amongst urban residents compared to those in rural areas. According to a report from the World Bank, urban residents have more access to specialty hospitals, university research centers, and more-experienced doctors, while rural citizens face subpar treatment and are often prescribed an “irrational” array of drugs.


The Chinese government stated “it has been working to address this inequity since 2003, putting in place a modest healthcare insurance system that it hopes will help the poorest meet basic medical needs”. In 2009 Beijing launched a new reform to provide a more affordable and universal healthcare. An anthropologist working in this area goes by the name of Igor Rudan identifying the leading cause of death in neonates (<1 month), post neonatal infants (1—11 months), and children (<5 years) in China. Igor and his colleges searched Chinese databases available to the public and developed a statistical model to estimate the total number of deaths in children according to provinces, age groups, and main causes. As I stated previously, his findings stated that the mortality rate has dropped a significant amount during 1990-2008. He also discovered the main causes for infant mortality, which were stated previously. His efforts prove that infant mortality in China is mainly a government health issue that needs to be confronted to a greater extent.



Burkitt, Laurie. “Report: China Sees Dramatic Drop in Infant Death”. Accessed August 9,2013.

Lyn, Tan.“Child mortality highlights China’s urban-rural divide”. Accessed August 8,2013.

Rudan, Igor.” Causes of deaths in children younger than 5 years in China in 2008”. Accessed August 8,2013.

The World Factbook. “Infant Mortality Rates”. Accessed August 9, 2013.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Taylor Young says:

    The anthropologist, Igor Rudan, took a statistical approach of observing infant mortality rates in China. He observed the rates of deaths by looking at specific age groups, causes of death, and areas/provinces in China. By doing this, he was able to conclude the infant mortality rate has been dropping and he was able to conclude the main causes of death. Through these conclusions Rudan was able to bring more attention to the problem of infant mortality in China. From the lecture video, globalization can allow people to communicate ideas about healing across great distances and can introduce new forms of medical knowledge and technologies into local communities that need them. By bringing more attention to the problem of infant mortality within China, Igor Rudan allows for more communication about ideas on how to rectify the problem. Looking at the macro level problem of the infant mortality rate and the education of the problem then permits other medical anthropologists to observe the more micro level problems and can then lead to the reduction of the infant mortality rate. The blog post states, “His efforts prove that infant mortality in China is mainly a government health issue that needs to be confronted to a greater extent.” Placing blame on the government can make the government want to improve their conditions within hospitals in rural areas, which can ultimately have a direct effect on this global crisis.

  2. Elaina Clark says:

    Although it’s not directly stated, the way that Igor Rudan addressed the problem of infant mortality deals with the way China’s health system is arranged. China, being the huge country that it is, doesn’t really have too many urban areas. Rudan studied the disease prevalence in different populations of China and determined that in more rural places without efficient access to a hospital or well-trained doctors, the infant mortality rate was higher than those who lived close to urban areas. Rudan was able to determine a social factor behind the infant mortality rates in China. Thus, he theorized that the government needed to create a better healthcare system and provide better access for patients to hospitals.

    I think applying anthropology to this matter improved the situation greatly. Like I mentioned, anthropologists have vast knowledge of different cultures and can draw upon their beliefs and customs to help improve conditions in the place of interest. As an anthropologist, Rudan had the ability to draw on his knowledge from other cultures and how they practice medicine when figuring out what improvements would be most beneficial to China. He was able to draw on social (age), economic (location), and cultural factors (causes) to help decide what was causing the infant mortality and what needed to be done to solve it.

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