This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that although the global child mortality rate has dropped by more than half since 1990, the global target was still missed by a wide margin.

Even more disheartening, data also released from WHO has shown that most deaths of children under five actually occur within the first months after birth (more than 45%), resulting from issues such as prematurity and complications during delivery.

Despite this, it is important to note that in the United States, the average infant mortality rate has dropped significantly from 1990 to today.  In 1990, the country’s overall infant mortality rate rested at around 10 deaths per 1,000 live births, while today that average is around 6 deaths per 1,000 live births (UNICEF).  This progress is a good sign for continued improvement of infant mortality in the U.S.

However, when comparing the United States’ estimated 1990 infant mortality rate to Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate today, there is little, if any, difference to be seen.  Both Milwaukee’s 2014 infant mortality rate and the United States’ estimated 1990 infant mortality rate are about 10 deaths per 1,000 live births (FOX 6, UNICEF).  That means that Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate is at the rate the rest of the country would have been expected to be at over 20 years ago.

When we go further, comparing Milwaukee’s current African American infant mortality rate to the United States estimates, we find an even more concerning distinction.  The African American infant mortality rate for Milwaukee, today, is closer to the United States average infant mortality rate from the late 1970’s than it is to the the United States estimate today (FIMR, UNICEF).  By this comparison, the Milwaukee African American infant mortality rate is currently on par with the overall population’s expected average from well over 30 years ago.

We can say that the infant mortality rate has improved greatly around the world and in the United States.  We can even say that there has been great improvement in Milwaukee.  However, that improvement for Milwaukee does not leave us anywhere near what is expected from the rest of the country.

Milwaukee still has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country, and will continue to, unless we decide to look at the data and accept that what we currently have is unacceptable.  Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate may be improving, but it is nowhere near where it should be.

[All data and facts in this article were taken from various sources cited within the article.  These sources are also listed below.  Any comparisons or opinions that appear in the article above were drawn from this article’s author.]


World Health Organization (WHO), “Child mortality rates plunge by more than half since 1990 but global MDG target missed by wide margin”

Unicef Child Mortality Estimates:

2013 City of Milwaukee Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Report

Fox 6 Report:, “Milwaukee Area Teen Fights “Unacceptable” Infant Mortality Rate by Supplying “Baby Boxes”