US infant mortality rate declined 3% from 2019 to 2021, says new report | Health

Posted by

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics has found infant mortality declined 3% from 2019 to 2021. However, the good news is tempered by large racial and economic disparities and the US’s poor ranking in infant and maternal health internationally.

Black and Native mothers are consistently more likely than white and Asian mothers to have infants who die in their first year of life, a statistic that mirrors disparities in maternal mortality.

“While a small decrease is a wonderful trend in the right direction, for the amount we’re putting in we should be seeing significant improvements,” said Dr Erika Werner, physician-in-chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts medical center in Massachusetts.

“We are one of the countries that spends the most on healthcare, and in particular we spend a lot on prenatal care and a lot of pediatric care. Yet we continue to have, in terms of other developed countries, one of the highest infant mortality rates.”

The new report covers data collected from birth and death certificates from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Infant mortality is broadly seen as a marker of the health of nations.

The infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of babies less than a year old who died per 1,000 live births. Across the US, the rate of infant death declined from 2019 to 2021 by 3%, from 5.58 to 5.44.

That figure continues a trend found by other government researchers, such as a 2018 report in Jama Pediatrics that found all-cause mortality for infants and children declined from 1999 to 2015.

Still, the health of US infants continues to lag behind those in Canada and the UK. And the US has striking disparities in race and markers of class.

Black mothers are more than three times as likely as Asian and twice as likely as white mothers to have infants who die in their first year. Similarly, women who have low incomes and qualify for government food and health assistance are more likely to suffer infant death.

skip past newsletter promotion

Werner called the factors behind such disparities “multifactorial”, but added that researchers “know that [during] pregnancy and delivery and the early postpartum period there are more barriers to access [and] more stress likely due to structural racism in certain populations compared to other populations”.

The new report also found infants whose mothers smoked, received late or no prenatal care, and qualified for government health assistance were more likely to perish. Worryingly, the new CDC report also noted that provisional data for 2022 showed an increase in infant mortality.