A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reveals that infant mortality rates in all 50 states and Washington D.C. have steadily dropped over the last decade. Despite this good news, the report flags other glaring disparities that need to be addressed.
The CDC’s report shows that infant mortality, which is defined as the death of a baby before their first birthday, has dropped more than 14 percent from 2005 to 2015, falling from 6.86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to just 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.
Despite this positive trend, the numbers show that there are still major regional and racial disparities that contribute to infant mortality. Almost all of the states with the highest rates are located in the south, with Mississippi leading the way with 9.08 deaths per 1,000 live births. Alabama (8.52), Louisiana (7.92), and Arkansas (7.63) are also all in the top five, with Washington D.C. (7.65) being the lone non-Southern member of the top five.
Massachusetts had the lowest infant mortality rate, with just 4.28 deaths per 1,000 live births, less than half of Mississippi’s rate. Iowa (4.41), California (4.5), Vermont (4.5), and New Jersey (4.53) rounded out the bottom five.
That Southern states are at the top of the list is not surprising, given the region’s high rate of unplanned pregnancies and low-quality health care, Still, seeing just how much more common infant mortality is in the South than the rest of the country is jarring.
Even more disturbing than the regional differences, however, is the disparity in infant mortality amongst different races, as the new report shows that the infant mortality rate among infants of non-Hispanic black women (11.1 deaths per 1,000 live births) is significantly higher than those among infants of non-Hispanic white women (4.95) and Hispanic women (4.99).
T.J. Mathews, lead author of the report and a demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, says this is the first time the report has focused on race or ethnicity. He hopes this report will help people see how big of a problem this has become.
“The lowest rate for non-Hispanic black is higher than the highest for non-Hispanic white or for Hispanics,” Mathews told CNN.”For people who don’t necessarily think about this topic, this says a lot.”
While we may be making great strides towards reducing infant mortality, this study shows we still have a long way to go to ensure every child can lead a long and healthy life.