U.S. Gaining Ground on Infant Mortality

By Kristine Hartvigsen on March 22nd, 2017

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month released an updated report on infant mortality trends in the United States. After decades of recording a higher infant mortality rate than many developed nations, the U.S. has reduced infant mortality overall by 15% over nearly 10 years.

With demographic breakdowns, the CDC found that the rate among infants born to Asian or Pacific Islanders declined 21%. Among infants of non-Hispanic black women, the rate went down 20%. Despite these improvements, racial gaps persist. The mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was still more than double that for non-Hispanic white women. And the rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives changed very little during the decade studied.

High performers singled out in the report include Colorado, Connecticut, South Carolina, and Vermont. These states experienced decreases of more than 20%. Congenital malformations — the leading cause of infant deaths — declined by 11%. Deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) declined the most dramatically, by 29%.

Experts cited a number of possible contributors to the improvement. Primary among them are efforts to discourage scheduled early deliveries before 39 weeks. Another factor may be the practice of sending nurses and/or social workers to the homes of new mothers to provide instruction and support in caring for their newborns.

While the improved numbers are encouraging, researchers noted that the U.S. infant mortality rate internationally remains comparatively high. However, it’s also possible that initiatives to lower infant mortality are beginning to show results.

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