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Child Mortality

Discover the shocking truth behind child mortality rates worldwide and the urgent need for action in this eye-opening article.

USMLE Guide: Child Mortality


Child mortality is a critical topic that frequently appears on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of child mortality, including its definition, causes, risk factors, and preventive measures. Understanding these key points will help you answer questions related to child mortality on the USMLE with confidence.


Child mortality refers to the death of children under the age of five. It is a crucial measure of a country's healthcare system and overall well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) uses this indicator to assess global health and development.

Causes of Child Mortality

  1. Infectious Diseases: In low-income countries, infectious diseases remain the leading cause of child mortality. Examples include pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS.
  2. Malnutrition: Inadequate nutrition contributes to child mortality, especially in impoverished regions. Malnourished children are more susceptible to infections and have weakened immune systems.
  3. Birth Complications: Complications during delivery or immediately after birth can lead to neonatal deaths. These may include birth asphyxia, prematurity, and infections.
  4. Congenital Anomalies: Structural or functional abnormalities present at birth contribute to child mortality. Examples include heart defects, neural tube defects, and chromosomal disorders.

Risk Factors

Several factors increase the risk of child mortality:

  • Geographical Location: Children in low-income countries and areas with limited healthcare access are at higher risk.
  • Socioeconomic Status: Poverty, lack of education, and limited access to healthcare increase the likelihood of child mortality.
  • Maternal Health: Maternal factors, including young age, malnutrition, and inadequate prenatal care, can impact child mortality rates.
  • Immunization Coverage: Insufficient vaccination coverage leaves children vulnerable to preventable diseases.
  • Water and Sanitation: Poor access to clean water and sanitation facilities contributes to the spread of infectious diseases.

Preventive Measures

Efforts to reduce child mortality focus on various strategies:

  1. Immunization Programs: Maintaining high immunization coverage protects children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
  2. Improving Maternal Health: Ensuring adequate prenatal care, proper nutrition, and access to skilled birth attendants help reduce child mortality.
  3. Enhancing Healthcare Systems: Strengthening healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare professionals, and increasing access to essential medications and treatments.
  4. Promoting Education and Poverty Alleviation: Educating communities about child health, hygiene, and family planning, coupled with poverty alleviation efforts, can positively impact child mortality rates.
  5. Clean Water and Sanitation: Providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities reduces the burden of infectious diseases.


Child mortality remains a significant global health issue, particularly in low-income countries. Understanding the causes, risk factors, and preventive measures associated with child mortality is crucial for healthcare professionals. By addressing these factors, implementing preventive measures, and improving healthcare systems, we can work towards reducing child mortality rates worldwide.

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