The CDC reports that, out of 1,000 babies that are born, within a year, almost six die. It's horrible, but if there is any silver lining, we've actually come a long way. Here are some stats on infant mortality from now versus 20 years ago.
In 1997, almost eight babies died out of every 1,000 births. That means 20 years ago, 27,988 infants died in one year alone. In 2014, 23,215 babies died within a year of being born. Saving 4,700 babies a year is no small feat. Initiatives to decrease infant mortality have spread across the country; Ohio and Minnesota developed infant mortality programs based in areas with high rates of mortality.
The Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership (NMPP) worked with local organizations, government agencies, and hospitals to come up with a plan to reduce infant mortality rates. And it worked: Central Harlem’s infant mortality rate dropped from 27.7 in 1990 to 6.1 in 2008.
But what's tragic is that, while infant mortality rates as a whole are decreasing, the gap in infant deaths between black and white mothers is actually increasing. Black mothers are more than twice as likely to lose their infant than white mothers are, according to the March of Dimes.
Nationally, 11.3 black mothers lost their babies out of every 1,000 compared to 5.8 overall, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported. Megan Lessard, of NMPP’s Healthy Start program, told NICHQ, an organization dedicated to improving children's health:
Communities with the most infant deaths also have the poorest access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutrition and education. We must continue to target the social inequality at the center of this epidemic.
Race isn't the only factor contributing to infant mortality rates varying greatly: it also depends on what part of the country you live in, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. In Massachusetts, the infant mortality rate for the years 2013 and 2014 averaged out to 4.3, but in Mississippi, the rate is a whopping 8.9.
That means almost 9 babies out of every 1,000 births died.
And if you factor race in, 14 babies out of every 1,000 births died in places such as Kansas and Wisconsin, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The most common causes of infant mortality are birth defects, preterm births (which means the birth occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy), low birth weight, complications during pregnancy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and injuries, the CDC reported.
Ensuring moms-to-be receive prenatal care is essential for reducing infant mortality. But there are far more social and political factors that could improve infant mortality rates.
"Parental leave policies have tremendous influence on health outcomes for both mom and baby, as well as long-term economic impact," Lisako McKyer, associate professor at Texas A&M School of Public Health, told Science Daily. "Studies show that in countries where there is a generous parental leave policy, there are tremendous effects on morbidity and mortality rates of infants and young children."
Countries that have home nurse visits also have low infant mortality rates, Science Daily reported. We've come a long way in 20 years. But we have a long way to go.