The infant mortality rate (IMR) of the city of Buenos Aires has increased from 6.0 (number of deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2015 to 7.2 in 2016, a significant difference, according to a recent report by the Sanitary Sovereignty Foundation. Note that this rate does not take into account still births, only infants that died between birth and the age of 1 year old.

Compared to large cities in the US, Buenos Aires is not far from the statistical average. However, if the trend continues, an increase in Buenos Aires City’s IMR could point to some serious underlying issues in health policy. This is linked to the fact that the city of Buenos Aires is one of the wealthiest and best-subsidized areas in Argentina, leaving one to wonder how harder-hit provinces fare.

First, the numbers for the city of Buenos Aires. Thirty six more infants under the age of 1 died in 2016 when compared to 2015, or the difference between 282 and 246. Additionally, from 2015 to 2016, the IMR in the three poorest communes — 8, 4, and 9 — increased from 8 to 9.7, 7.2 to 11.9, and 6.5 to 10.1 respectively, while the IMR in the three richest districts — 13, 2, and 14 — fell from 4.7 to 4.5, 4.5 to 3.6, and 5.6 to 3.2 respectively. In other words, on average the IMR of the poorest districts increased by about 3.33 while the IMR of the richest communes decreased by 1.16, making for the total widening of this difference amount to 4.49.

The Numbers in Perspective

To put the IMR of the city of Buenos Aires (6.0 in 2015, 7.2 in 2016) in context with some major US cities in 2015 according to the nonpartisan Annie E. Casey Foundation:

Detroit: 12.8
Washington D.C.: 8.6
Philadelphia: 8.0
Chicago: 7.8
Baltimore: 7.7
Boston: 5.5
Los Angeles: 4.3
New York City: 4.1

Additionally, Buenos Aires has the same 2016 IMR as 2015 Minneapolis.

This means the IMR of the city of Buenos Aires is not much higher than the average deemed “acceptable” by most countries, though for the sake of clarity is higher than the IMR seen in most Western European countries.

The sharp IMR increase from 2015 to 2016, especially given the gap between rich and poor communes, has led some opposition groups to point to changes in health care policy under the Macri administration, but extracting data that proves a causal relationship is still a few years away from being viable. From a non-partisan standpoint though it’s clear that further analysis is needed focusing on the precise effects of health care policies on hard-hit areas.

According to President of the Sanitary Sovereignty Foundation Nicolás Kreplak to Página 12, the IMR “is the most important index of development in a country because it is a result of access to the health of the population and is related to the distribution of income.”

To analyze the effectiveness of healthcare within Argentina, the government must also process more IMR data in other provinces of the country, as most are significantly less affluent than the city of Buenos Aires.