Increased medical and social support needed to reduce black infant mortality

January 2, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—The mortality rate for black and white infants in Dane County was just about equal from 2004 until 2007. However, black infant deaths rose from 2008 to 2010 while the mortality rate for white babies remained steady.

In light of this trend, research led by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says reductions in medical and social support for black expectant mothers combined with a brutal may be responsible for the increase in black infant deaths.

The research, which will be published in this month's edition of the Wisconsin Medical Journal, shows that black infant deaths rose from seven per 1,000 births to 12 in 2008 and 15 in 2010. White infant deaths remained steady at about four per thousand births from 2008 to 2010.

Dr. Lee Dresang, a family-medicine physician and professor at the School of Medicine and Public Health, said the uptick in black in Dane County may be related to the downfall in the U.S. economy.

"For black babies during the first year of life, economic stress trumps medical and social services," he said. "The worsening economy has probably affected the black and not the white since 2008 because the social and economic stress that black families face is so much greater than that for white families."

"The improvement in infant mortality for black families in 2002 to 2007 was due to including medical and non-medical support," he added. "When the economy worsened, support probably decreased while needs increased and outcomes suffered. The social and was such that the net was inadequate for black families while still adequate for white families."

Dresang cited usage in 2010, which was more than eight times higher for blacks than whites, and the fact that blacks have a per capita median income less than half of whites.

The study analyzed more than 100,000 Dane County birth and death records provided by the Department of Health Services for the period 1990-2007. The U.S. Census Bureau provided estimated trends for the period 2007-2010. The main focus was on the outcome of preterm births, defined as birth through 28 weeks of gestation, and the amount of prenatal care received. Preterm births are responsible for three out of 10 neonatal deaths.

Care that started early and included more than the expected number of doctor visits was defined as intensive while mothers who had fewer than half the expected visits received "less-than-standard" care.

"In Dane County from 2002 to 2007, black women receiving intensive prenatal care had decreased infant mortality while women receiving less-than-standard prenatal care did not," said Dresang. "This suggests that something about prenatal care improved prenatal outcomes during these years."

"With the black-white mortality gap persisting nationally and locally for so many years, many have given up hope that anything can be done," he added. "The elimination of the gap in Dane County from 2002 to 2007 and our study's finding that prenatal care made a difference give hope that with sufficient levels of medical and community support, this health disparity can be eliminated."

Dresang said a fetal infant mortality review (FIMR) committee has been meeting since 2010 to discuss fetal and in Dane County and hopes to come up with recommendations early next year.

"Many medical and community organizations are present at these meetings," he said. "The hope is that we can learn from the deaths that happen and prevent as many as possible."

Also collaborating on the research were the UW Department of Family Medicine, Dane County Public Health Department, UW Applied Population Laboratory and UW Medical History, History of Science, and Gender and Women's Studies Departments.

Explore further: Infant mortality linked to subsequent risk of stillbirth finds new US study

Related Stories

Infant mortality linked to subsequent risk of stillbirth finds new US study

September 21, 2011
Women whose first pregnancy ended in infant death are significantly more likely to have a subsequent stillbirth finds new research published today (21 September) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.