Startling provisional figures released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) have revealed a concerning uptick in the number of American babies who did not survive their first year of life in the previous year.
This unfortunate development marks the first significant increase in the nation’s infant mortality rate in two decades, shedding light on the state of maternal and child health in the United States (Source: NY Times).
Infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are intertwined and are widely regarded as indicators of a society’s overall health. Sadly, the United States lags behind other industrialized countries in these critical health metrics.
The situation is particularly dire for Black and Native American mothers, who are approximately three times more likely to experience maternal mortality during and after pregnancy compared to white and Hispanic mothers.
Tragically, their infants also face up to twice the risk of not surviving infancy compared to white and Hispanic babies.
The overall life expectancy in the United States has been on the decline in recent years, impacting both white and people of color. The Covid-19 pandemic played a role in these declines, contributing to the overall health challenges faced by the nation.
This increase in infant mortality is especially distressing considering a century of public health improvements in which infant mortality rates consistently and gradually decreased almost every year, with few exceptions.
Danielle M. Ely, a health statistician with the N.C.H.S. and the lead author of the report, stated that the reasons behind this increase were not explored in the report.
However, it is noteworthy that most babies born in 2022 were conceived in 2021, a year in which maternal deaths saw a sharp 40 percent increase due to the pandemic. The health community is concerned about whether this is a one-year anomaly or the beginning of a more concerning trend.
One of the report’s disconcerting findings was the increase in infant mortality among babies born to women aged 25 to 29. The rate increased from 5.15 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2021 to 5.37 per 1,000 live births in the last year.
The cause of this increase remains unknown, further emphasizing the urgency of understanding and addressing these concerning trends in infant mortality.