U.S. infant mortality declined, but low birth weight, preterm births increased

July 10, 2023
Research over 11 years suggests infant mortality alone is not a sufficient indicator of health.

New research from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and collaborators indicates that infant mortality alone may be insufficient as a health indicator. For the study, researchers explored time trends and racial inequities in infant mortality, low birth weight and preterm births from 2007 to 2019 using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) and the Linked Birth/Infant Death Records (LBIDR).

Results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Pediatrics and Child Health, showed that from 2014 to 2019 infant mortality fell, while low birth weight and preterm births rose. For all three indicators, researchers reported significant inequities between white and Black infants. When compared with white infants, Black infants experienced a significant twofold greater infant mortality and low birth weight and one-and-a-half times greater preterm birth rate.

The differences between Black infants and white infants have remained largely unchanged for decades. Based on data from the current original research, the Black infant mortality rate in 2018 approximated the white infant mortality rate of 1981. Since 1980, the U.S. Healthy People (HP) initiative has drafted objectives to improve health and well-being in the U.S. had hoped to eliminate racial inequities by 2010. The HP 2023 initiative has opined that infant mortality is the leading health indicator of child health. 

For the study, researchers calculated annual infant mortality rates per 1,000 live births and low birth weight as well as preterm birth rates per 100,000 live births. Newborns of low birth weight were classified as those weighing approximately 5.5 pounds or less. Preterm births were classified as 20 to 36 weeks’ gestation. A total of 47,474,176 infant births from the LBIDR over 11 years were analyzed, out of which 7,111,385 and 25,735,338 were the number of white and Black infant births, respectively.

Researchers obtained data by year and mother’s race: reported as non-Hispanic white and Black as well as non-Hispanic Black.

Florida Atlantic University release on Newswise