U.S. Infant Mortality

Goals Endangered

The infant mortality rate will have to drop 36 percent overall -- and even more in the black and Native American communities -- for the United States to meet a key federal target, officials said yesterday.

In a sobering study in its weekly health report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that as of 2002 no state met the government's 2010 target of 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Only a handful, mostly those with relatively small numbers of blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, are even within reach, CDC researchers added. The U.S. infant mortality rate was seven per 1,000 in 2002, the latest year that full data were available.

Besides improving access to the health care system and reemphasizing the importance of prenatal care, the study suggested the infant mortality will not drop significantly as long as gaping racial disparities in such deaths persist.

Although infant mortality fell across the board from 1995 to 2002, there was little change in the gaps between the races.

Some health experts have urged the United States, which has a higher infant mortality rate than most other Western nations, to allocate more resources to prenatal care than intensive newborn care.

Intensive Therapy

Helps Stroke Victims

Even years later, intensive therapy seems to improve the speaking ability of people who have had a stroke, a small study suggests.

Although the experiment needs to be duplicated with a larger, broader group, several experts praised the results.

Researchers looked at 27 stroke survivors -- 16 men and 11 women with an average age of 51 -- who had suffered for about four years from varying degrees of aphasia, problems with speaking and comprehending words.

The patients in the study were given 30 hours of speech training -- three hours a day over 10 days. Before the training, the patients had trouble finding the right words or understanding what other people said. They improved right away after the training, and that progress was maintained six months later.

In the study led by Marcus Meinzer of the Universitat Konstanz in Germany and published yesterday in the journal Stroke, the therapists used games to encourage patients to speak rather than relying on gestures to communicate.

Specialists Better

At Mammograms

Women looking for the most accurate mammograms possible should seek a doctor who specializes in doing them and who has 25 years' experience, according to a study released yesterday.

This is worth doing, because among individual doctors the success rate in detecting breast tumors ranged from 29 to 97 percent, researchers told a Defense Department meeting in Philadelphia.

A team led by Philip Chu of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center studied doctors' actual performance in interpreting more than 1.2 million mammograms, and compared this with data from cancer registries in four states.

Doctors who interpreted 2,500 to 4,000 mammograms a year were the most accurate and had the fewest false positives.

On average, physicians could find 77 percent of cancers in a mammogram and the average false positive rate was 10 percent.

-- From News Services