BLESSED EVENT It's practically the definition of good news: U.S. infant mortality is down 3%, according to the latest annual figures, and down 21% for the past 10 years. And yet the U.S. rate of 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births hides some real inequities. The mortality rate for babies of black mothers is four times as high as the rate for Asian Americans. Deaths are also high for babies of Puerto Ricans, Hawaiians, Native Americans, and mothers who smoked, were in their teens or received no prenatal care.
UNEASY RIDERS The downside of baby boomers getting in touch with their inner Hell's Angel is a mounting death toll. New studies show motorcycle fatalities are up 35% in just three years. The increase is mostly among riders 40 and older and those who ride big bikes. Contributing factors are speeding, drinking alcohol and not wearing a helmet.
ASTHMA ALERT When kids play hard, they breathe hard. And that's a problem in high-smog areas, according to a study of 3,500 schoolchildren in Southern California. Kids in those areas active in outdoor sports were three times as likely to develop asthma as their less active classmates. It has long been known that smog aggravates asthma, but this is the best evidence yet that smog can also cause it. Expect the finding to fan the debate over clean-air standards.
--By David Bjerklie
Sources: Good News--National Center for Health Statistics; Bad News--National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration; Lancet (2/2/02)