White and black children in the United States did not benefit equally from a recent reduction in infant mortality, according to new research. Instead, black babies are almost 2.5 times more likely than white babies to die during their first year of life.
Infant mortality in the USA has been on the decline, falling 15 percent in the last decade, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Riddell, Ph.D., of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and coauthors analyzed data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System from 2005 to 2015.
Among black infants, the death rate declined from 14.3 per 1,000 births in 2005 to 11.6 per 1,000 in 2012, where it plateaued before going back up to 11.7 per 1,000 births in 2015.
While infant deaths have decreased among all races, the study shows that in recent years the progress for saving black lives has slowed. In fact, infant mortality - the number of infant deaths divided by the number of births - decreased more dramatically for blacks than whites.
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However, deaths rates related to sudden infant death syndrome and congenital malformations increased for black infants between 2014 and 2015. "The infant mortality rate for this cause is four times as high among black infants than white infants, representing the largest inequality among all the leading causes of infant death, and may represent the most promising area for intervention to reduce the overall inequality in infant mortality".
From 2005 to 2015, the mortality rate among white infants declined from 5.7 deaths per 1,000 births to 4.8 per 1,000 births, Riddell's team reports in JAMA Pediatrics.
The McGill University researchers said the halt to improving numbers for black infant mortality "has led to increases in the absolute inequality in infant mortality between black and white infants during the past 3 years".
"Based on this study, we can not say what the role of socioeconomic factors was in the increase in the infant mortality rate among black infants", Riddell said.
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