Infant Mortality Rates for Blacks Much Worse than Whites
Infant mortality rates in the United States are "much higher" for African-American infants than for white or Hispanic infants, and African-American infants in large U.S. cities are up to five times more likely to die within a year of birth than white infants, according to CDC researchers, Reuters Health reports. Study author Scott Santibanez and colleagues, whose findings were published in Friday's edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reported that from 1995 to 1998, 13.9 out of every 1,000 live-born black infants died in their first year of life, compared to 6.4 for white infants and 5.9 for Hispanic infants. Cities such as Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va., Detroit, Mich., and Birmingham, Ala., which had the highest overall infant mortality rates -- ranging from 13.8 to 15.4 deaths per 1,000 live births -- also had the highest proportion of births of African-American infants (Ault, Reuters Health, 4/18). Depending on the city, African-American infants were 1.4 to 4.8 times more likely than white infants to die in their first year, according to the CDC (AP/Washington Post, 4/19).
The cities that reported the highest infant mortality rates also reported higher numbers of very low- and moderately low-birthweight infants, higher numbers of births to teens, greater rates of late or absent prenatal care and more racial segregation of residents within the community. According to Santibanez, past studies have indicated that African-American women tend to give birth to infants with lower birthweights than infants in other racial groups, which "partially account[s]" for the increased infant mortality rate but is "only one of the many factors that seem to be influencing infant mortality." The study also found that Hispanic women, who are more likely to have "little education [and] receive prenatal care late," have lower rates of infant mortality than African-American women. Santibanez stated that there is "no easy explanation for the differences," adding, "It's really a complex interaction of many different factors that are social, environmental, behavioral and biological" (Reuters Health, 4/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.