Utah's death rate for newborns is the lowest of any state, according to statistics released Monday by Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan.

Provisional data - which still must be verified by the states - shows Utah's infant mortality rate for 1990 at 8.12 deaths per 1,000 live births. That compared to a U.S. provisional rate of 9.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.The last available verified data, for 1986-88, showed Utah's overall infant mortality rate at 8.5 deaths per 1,000 births - fifth-lowest in the nation. But Utah had the nation's lowest death rate among the youngest infants - babies less than 28 days old - 4.3 per 1,000 births. Utah's death rate for older infants was 4.1 per 1,000 births.

The U.S. rate of 9.1 deaths per 1,000 births was a drop from the 1989 provisional estimate of 9.7 deaths per 1,000 - the biggest single-year decline in a decade, said Sullivan.

"About half of the overall decline (nationally) was from a drop in mortality from respiratory distress syndrome, possibly due to improvements in therapies to treat this syndrome.

"The decline may also be related to efforts to increase access to care. It may also be related to our public and private programs to decrease illegal drug, alcohol or tobacco use by pregnant women," Sullivan said.

But Sullivan said the news is not all good. For example, he said the latest available international information, for 1987, on infant mortality shows the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than 24 other nations - ranging from Japan to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Also, infant mortality rates are generally worse among many minority groups.

"We also found that the infant mortality rate is 50 percent higher for American Indian and 40 percent higher for Puerto Rican infants than for whites," Sullivan said.

"We found that only about 60 percent of American Indian, Mexican American, black and Puerto Rican mothers received prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy. In contrast, about 80 percent or more of white, Cuban and Asian mothers obtained early prenatal care."

Also, while statistics showed U.S. infants are more likely to survive infancy, their overall life expectancy may be dropping.

"Some sobering news," Sullivan said. "After many years of constant increases, life expectancy for all Americans dropped slightly from 75.0 years in 1987 to 74.9 in 1988. However, provisional data show life expectancy in 1990 is up to a record high of 75.2 years."

Affecting that, he said, is that injuries, homicides and suicides now account for more than three-quarters of the deaths of American teenagers and young adults.

Also, "Better control of fewer than 10 risk factors - such as poor diet, lack of prenatal care, infrequent exercise, the use of tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse and failure to use seat beats - could prevent between 40 and 70 percent of all premature deaths," Sullivan said.

Sullivan also released a report "Health United States 1990," which is a sort of annual checkup of the nation's health that provides many state-by-state statistics. It showed Utahns spend among the least in the nation for health care, have the fewest hospital beds available per capita and have a growing number of AIDS cases.


(Additional information)

Health in Utah

Here are some Utah highlights from statistics released Monday by Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan:

- Fetal death rate: Utah had the nation's sixth-lowest fetal death rate for fetuses of gestation more than 20 weeks: 6.1 per 1,000 live births. The national average is 6.1.

- AIDS cases: Utah had the 14th-highest rate of AIDS cases, 5.6 per 100,000 residents. That was still far below the national average of 16.62.

The state reported 323 AIDS cases between 1983 and 1990. It reported 187 deaths from AIDS in the same period.

- Health costs: Utahns spent the fourth-lowest amount per person on health care in 1982 (the most current data available): $896. The national average was $1,220.

Utahns also spent the least on hospital care per capita that year: $399. The national average was $577. They also spent the sixth-least on nursing home care per capita: $63, compared to a national average of $114.

- Doctor/hospital availability: Utah had 17.7 physicians per 10,000 residents in 1987. Only 19 states had fewer. The national average was 21.4. Utah had the nation's second-lowest rate of community hospital bed availability in 1988 - 2.7 beds per 1,000 residents. The national average was 3.9. But Utah also doesn't fill the beds it has. The state had a hospital occupancy rate in 1988 of only 56.6 percent - seventh-lowest in the nation. The national average was 65.7 percent.

The state also has a fairly low rate of nursing-home beds available in 1988 - 511.2 per 1,000 residents over age 65. Only 15 states had fewer. The national average was 582.2.