The survival prospects for newborn babies are improving around the world. But new research on mortality rates among children up to four weeks old shows that the improvement has lagged in the U.S., which ranked 41st among the 193 countries covered.

The study, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, found that newborn deaths globally decreased from 4.6 million to 3.3 million between 1990 and 2009.

The research team, led by specialists from the World Health Organizations and the non-governmental group Save the Children, calculated the U.S. newborn mortality rate at 4.3 per 1,000 live births, on par with Croatia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

As CNN pointed out, researchers say large numbers of preterm deliveries — those occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy — play a role in the relatively poor U.S. ranking.

Globally, according to a news release from Save the Children, the three leading causes of newborn death are preterm delivery, asphyxia and severe infections, which the organization said are highly preventable with proper care.

“We know that solutions as simple as keeping newborns warm, clean and properly breastfed can keep them alive, but many countries are in desperate need of more and better trained frontline health workers to teach these basic lifesaving practices,” said Dr. Joy Lawn Lawn, a pediatrician who is a coauthor of the study. “Training more midwives and more community health workers will allow many more lives to be saved,” she added.

As The Associated Press reports, Afghan babies face the greatest risks, with one of every 19 dying in the first month of life, according to the statistics. India has the greatest number of newborn deaths overall — more than 900,000 annually.

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