Health, News

Black Infant Death Rates

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Infant death rates between blacks and whites is very wide

By Frederick H. Lowe

The U.S. infant death rate among blacks was twice as high as that for white infants in 2013, even though the overall infant death rate dropped to a historic low, National Vital Statistics Reports announced last week.

The highest infant death rate was 11.11% per 1,000 live births for infants born to non-Hispanic black mothers, according to a report titled “Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2013 period Linked Birth/Infant Data Set,” which was released August 6.

Infant mortality is much higher in the black community compared to the white community.
Infant mortality is much higher in the black community compared to the white community.

The infant death rate for non-Hispanic white mothers was 5.06% per 1,000 live births, the report stated. Cuban-American mothers had the lowest infant death rates of 3.02 per 1,000 live births.

The report studied live birth rates and infant mortality rates of nine ethnic and racial groups that included non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central and South Americans.

The study reported on neonatal death rates, or infants younger than 28 days old, and postneonatal infants 28 days old but younger than a year old. There were a total of 3,932,181 live births and the number of infant deaths was 23,446 or 5.96 per 1,000 live births.

Non-Hispanic black women had 583,834 live births, but there were 6,488 neonatal and postneonatal deaths, the report stated.

There were five leading causes of infant deaths in 2013, including the following:

  1. Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities, which accounted for 20% of infant deaths.
  2. Short gestation and low-birth weight accounted 18% of infant deaths;
  3. Maternal complications were the third-leading cause, accounting for 7% percent of infant deaths.
  4. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) also accounted for 7% of infant deaths
  5. Accidents accounted for 5% of infant deaths.

The report noted that non-Hispanic black women had the highest mortality rates from low-birth weight and they also had a much higher percentage of preterm births.

SIDS rates among non-Hispanic black women was 95% higher than for non-Hispanic white women, and African-American women had the highest neonatal mortality rate in 2013.

The number of U.S. infants who die before their first birthday, however, continues to decline and is at a historic low, health officials reported.

Between 2012 and 2013, the rate dropped only slightly, from 5.98 deaths per 1,000 births to 5.96. But that’s part of a long-term trend. Since 2005, when infant mortality stood at 6.86 per 1,000 births, the rate has fallen by 13 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2013, 23,446 infants died in the United States, 208 fewer than in 2012, the researchers found. “Not long ago, we were around 28,000 to 30,000 deaths,” researchers said. “There are still a lot of infant deaths, but that there are fewer means there have been positive changes.”

The U.S. still has higher infant mortality rates than other countries such as Sweden and Japan, where the rate is fewer than 3 deaths per 1,000 births.

In order to reduce the likelihood of infant death, women shouldn’t drink, smoke or use drugs during pregnancy. They also should watch their weight, get moderate exercise and get regular check-ups, researchers said.


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