Signaling progress in medical treatment, Beijing’s infant death rate fell to 65 per 10,000 last year and is expected to continue falling in the future.
The infant death rate, which is widely regarded as a good measure of a region’s or country’s health care level, refers to the number of babies per thousand who die before reaching 1 year of age.
According to Jiang Zaifang, a pediatric expert who works at the Beijing Children’s Hospital, the infant death rate in Beijing is nearly equivalent to the low rates in some of the most medically advanced countries.
Two such countries, Japan and Sweden, both have an infant death rate under 5 per thousand.
During the early days after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, even in some of Beijing’s richest districts, more than 120 per thousand of babies died in their first year. Half a century later, during the Ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996-2000), Beijing’s infant death rate fell to 10 per thousand.
According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health, the infant death rate is 33 per thousand nationwide. In rural regions the rate is 38 per thousand and in urban areas it is 14 per thousand.
“Beijing is organizing experts and plans to invest a lot of money in the strengthening of clinical research on congenital heart disease, which is the top killer of the city’s infants,” Liu Gang, an official of the Maternal and Infant Department with Beijing Health Bureau, told reporters.
The disease killed 83 out of the more than 54,000 babies born in the city in 2000.
About four years ago, tuberculosis and diarrhea were the major concerns of pediatricians. Both have now been basically brought under control in the city, Liu said.
Asphyxia, or suffocation, is another major cause of infant deaths.
Liu claimed Beijing has done well in the examination and care of pregnant women in the last few months leading up to childbirth, which has been a major factor in reducing the infant death rate.
The Beijing Health Bureau has also revealed the rate of death for children under the age of 5 fell to 78 per 10,000 last year.
A statement from the bureau attributed this drop to the creation in Beijing of a complete and effective child health network that provides immunizations and high-quality clinic-based care.
Currently, 99.5 percent of babies in Beijing receive vaccinations for major diseases.
Among Beijing’s children aged 14 and younger, official statistics indicate the top cause of death is accidents, among which suffocation, poisoning and traffic accidents are the top three.
Beijing Children’s Hospital reported that it has received a yearly average of over 400 children needing operations to remove objects stuck in their tracheae over the past few years.
The most common objects removed from the throats of young Beijingers were nails, buttons and soybeans. Other items included keys, bottle openers and pencil ends. Most children involved are younger than 3.
Children injured by falls were usually between 3 to 9 years old and children between 4 and 9 years old were most likely to be victims of traffic accidents.
(China Daily 03/14/2001)