Thursday, February 15, 2024


Printed today, 2/15/24, in the Guam Daily Post

Guam's infant mortality rate: The rest of the story

Tim Rohr LINK to Guam Daily Post (The following is copied from the Post with hyperlinks added)

Recent news that Guam’s infant mortality rate (IMR) is twice the national average brought to mind some research I had done on this issue in 2015, and at which time Guam’s IMR had been twice the national average since 2011. So the problem is not new.

My first thought was that Guam’s IMR is high due to our main medical facility (GMH) being a “forever and ever … under-resourced place,” as one doctor put it. In other words, we simply are unable to provide a normal standard of pre and postnatal care for our infants and their mothers. Note: Guam’s maternal mortality rate is also higher than the rest of the nation.

My second thought hearkens back to my 2015 research and a GMH policy titled “Comfort care for non-viable newborns.”

The policy essentially provides a “red line” between palliative care and lifesaving measures for babies born “at the threshold of viability with extremely low birth weight” or with “complex or multiple congenital anomalies incompatible with prolonged life.”

According to the policy, the “red line” is babies born at a gestational age of 25 plus/minus two weeks and weighing less than 500 grams. Meanwhile, in places which are not as “under-resourced” as Guam, an increasing number of children born prematurely are surviving and thriving at ever earlier gestational ages.

Also, the same GMH policy functionally discourages against providing lifesaving measures for babies born up to 27 weeks and weighing up to 750 grams, a gestational age the National Institute of Health states has a 70% chance of survival.

So, at least at first glance, it would seem that Guam’s IMR is another casualty of the politics of our government-run hospital as well as a general lack of service providers, specifically obstetrician-gynecologists, and the resultant lack of pre and postnatal care.

However, there appears to be more to the story.

According to the GMH head of pediatrics, “The percentage of those births that result in a newborn’s death at the hospital was relatively low.” So if these babies are not dying at birth or while still in the hospital, where are they dying?

The caption under a picture in one of the two local articles addressing this issue appears to tell “the rest of the story.”

It reads: “Officers with the Guam Police Department are seen outside a Dededo residence on the evening of Nov. 1, 2023, as they conduct an investigation involving the suspicious death of a 1-year-old child.” In short, the majority of infants who die before the age of 1 year are dying at home.

Meanwhile, a deeper dive into the numbers tells a more concerning story.

According to data published a few weeks ago in this paper, while Guam has a mean infant mortality rate of 10.7 per 1,000, deaths of CHamoru infants is 28.5 per 1,000, which is three times the mean, followed by Chuukese at 16.5, Filipino at 7.5, and whites at 2.25.

Compared to the rest of the world, the CHamoru infant mortality rate of 28.5 per 1,000 ranks CHamoru infant deaths 56th out of 237 countries, and for context, just ahead of countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Guatemala and just behind Uganda, Cambodia and Namibia.

In other words, the number of CHamoru infants dying before their first birthday ranks deep within the Third World.

Meanwhile, this shameful fact does not appear to be of any great concern to our current administration.

Given the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars our governor has already spent and continues to spend on securing abortionists for Guam, it appears the governor intends to reduce Guam’s infant mortality rate by getting rid of “problem” infants before they’re born.

Tim Rohr has resided in Guam since 1987. He has raised a family of 11 children, owned several businesses and most recently been active in local issues via his blog,, letters to local publications and occasional public appearances.

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