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Racism and Discrimination Contribute to Rising Infant Mortality Rate in the U.S.

According to a CDC report, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. has risen by 3% in 2022, which is the largest increase in two decades. The report found that the African American infant mortality rate was 10.8 per 1,000 live births in 2020, compared to 4.9 for white babies and 5.0 for Hispanic babies. This means that African-American infants have a mortality rate that is very close to being twice as high as the national average.

The report also found that non-Hispanic Black infants had 2.4 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic white infants in 2020. Very preterm infants had the highest mortality rate of 363.39 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020, which is 178 times that for infants born on term. The five main causes of infant mortality in 2020 were birth defects, premature birth and low birth weight, SIDs, injuries, and complications during pregnancy. These causes accounted for 60% of all infant deaths in 2020.

The reasons for the higher infant mortality rate among African American infants may include racism, discrimination, stress, and lack of access to quality health care. These factors affect the health of both the mother and the child and increase the risk of maternal complications, infections, and preterm birth.

Pregnant black women often face worse health care in hospitals than white women. A report from last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that black, American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. They also have more problems with preterm births, low birth-weight babies, or not getting enough prenatal care. The report says that these health gaps are caused by social and economic inequalities that are based on racism and discrimination. Having health insurance and access to care can help, but they only scratch the surface of the problem. Racism and discrimination affect how people of color are treated in health care and society. Even when they have the same education and income as white women, they still face worse health outcomes.

There are some efforts to improve the health of pregnant women of color and their babies. The NHS Long Term Plan promises that by 2024, most pregnant Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic group women will get care from the same midwife before, during, and after they give birth. This can help reduce preterm births, hospital admissions, and the need for intervention during labor and to improve women’s overall experience of care.

The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) is another organization that helps people navigate the healthcare system and demand quality care. They provide information and resources to empower African Americans to advocate for their health.