Sweden had the lowest reported infant mortality rate (IMR) among countries of the world from 1920 until 1980. Since 1981, Sweden, Japan, and Finland have shared this number one ranking on a somewhat rotating basis. The United States ranks 18th. In 1985, the reported IMRs in Japan, Sweden, and Finland were 5.5, 6.8, and 6.3, respectively, while that of the United States was 10.6 per 1000 live births. This article presents detailed data on IMR in Sweden, Finland, and the United States. It also includes data on neonatal mortality, postneonatal mortality, age of death, and incidence of low birth-weight in the three countries. The paper briefly describes background information on maternal and infant care in Sweden and Finland, including prenatal care, labor and delivery, sex education, family planning, abortion, infant care, and social benefits in Sweden and Finland. The paper gives possible reasons for the achievement of the low IMR in Sweden and Finland, and considers the implications for the United States.
Fertility and the rates of pregnancy, live births, and abortion in teenagers in the United States are considerably higher than in most other developed countries of northern and western Europe. Fertility rates in teenagers in Sweden have declined significantly. The teaching of family life education is universal in Sweden and almost universal in Finland. Sex is openly discussed within society in both countries. Family planning and abortion services are geographically very available in both countries and both services and supplies are free. The educational level of both males and females is high in both countries. The United States has the opportunity to reduce teenage pregnancy by applying the experience of Sweden and Finland in the fields of family life education and family planning services.