Is More Neonatal Intensive Care Always Better? Insights From a Cross-National Comparison of Reproductive Care

  • Thompson L
  • Goodman D
  • Little G
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BACKGROUND: Despite high per capita health care expenditure, the United States has crude infant survival rates that are lower than similarly developed nations. Although differences in vital recording and socioeconomic risk have been studied, a systematic, cross-national comparison of perinatal health care systems is lacking. OBJECTIVE: To characterize systems of reproductive care for the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, including a detailed analysis of neonatal intensive care and mortality. DESIGN/METHODS: Comparison of selected indicators of reproductive care and mortality from 1993-2000 through a systematic review of journal and government publications and structured interviews of leaders in perinatal and neonatal care. RESULTS: Compared with the other 3 countries, the United States has more neonatal intensive care resources yet provides proportionately less support for preconception and prenatal care. Unlike the United States, the other countries provided free family planning services and prenatal and perinatal physician care, and the United Kingdom and Australia paid for all contraception. The United States has high neonatal intensive care capacity, with 6.1 neonatologists per 10 000 live births; Australia, 3.7; Canada, 3.3; and the United Kingdom, 2.7. For intensive care beds, the United States has 3.3 per 10 000 live births; Australia and Canada, 2.6; and the United Kingdom, 0.67. Greater neonatal intensive care resources were not consistently associated with lower birth weight-specific mortality. The relative risk (United States as reference) of neonatal mortality for infants

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  • L. A. Thompson

  • D. C. Goodman

  • G. A. Little

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