Causes Behind High Infant Mortality Rate in the South Discovered

First Posted: Feb 04, 2014 10:29 AM EST

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Maternal and Child Health Bureau have found that population health is a major cause of infant mortality, particularly in the southern part of the United States.

Although the United States ranks 27th among industrialized nations in infant mortality rates, southern states suffer higher rates of infant mortality than the rest of the country, leading the researchers to believe that negative health effects such as obesity and diabetes can have an effect on this statistic. Their findings can be found in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Infant mortality rates in the U.S. also varies by race, socioeconomic status and geography; this caused researchers to pursue a definite answer for the high percentage of mortality in the South. They studied the most recent National Center for Health Statistic Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Files from 2007-2009. The files showed that there were 6.59 deaths for every 1,000 live births in the U.S., but there were 1.18 excess deaths in the South. This added up to 1,600 excess deaths per year, and a grand total of 5,018 excess deaths between 2007 and 2009.

Although race is considered to be an issue for infant mortality rates, the study showed that it differed throughout regions of the South. For example, there were higher mortality rates among non-Hispanic white infants in Oklahoma and Kentucky whereas Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana experienced higher mortality rates among non-Hispanic black infants.

"These findings can be used to inform the prioritization of strategies within the new infant mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) that originated in the South and through other public and private efforts to improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality at local and national levels," said Dr. Ashley Hirai in this EurekAlert! article, who is the lead investigator of this study.

In order to reduce these deaths, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hopes to promote reduction strategies, such as safe sleep practices and preventing and treating chronic health conditions that ultimately lead to infant mortality.

To read more about the infant mortality issue and the measures being taken to help mitigate it, visit this EurekAlert! article.

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