The U.S. Just Can't Catch Up To Europe On This Important Measure

One of the most important measures of public health is also one of the most depressing to contemplate: the percentage of a country's children who die before reaching their fifth birthday.

Reducing child mortality is one of the U.N.'s eight Millennium Development Goals, and a major report from The Lancet shows that progress has been tremendous, if not up to the level global leaders had been aiming for. In 2013, 6.3 million children younger than 5 died. That's too many, but it's also a 64% decline from 1970.

Still, the variation among countries is staggering. In Singapore, only 1 in 500 children die before the age of 5. In the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau, it's almost 1 in 6.Advertisement

The U.S. comes out better than many countries (1 in 152, about the same as in the United Arab Emirates), but still behind every Western European country (except Malta) as well as Central and Eastern European countries like Poland, Lithuania, Serbia, Estonia, and Slovenia.

And while the expansion of health insurance is expected to save lives, if historical trends continue, the researchers project, the U.S. will continue to lag behind most of Europe in 2030.

Here's a map that shows what things could look like then, with the child mortality rate in the same range in the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, and Iran - far behind Japan, Australia, and almost all of Europe.