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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mississippi's Infant Death Rate the Same as in Sri Lanka

The infant death rate in Mississippi is the highest of any state in the US, and is comparable to a number of less developed nations, such as Sri Lanka and Botswana. These are the sad facts from the Centers for Disease Control and are the numbers behind a nicely detailed story that appeared today on CNN.
Mississippi is 50th out of 50 states when it comes to infant mortality, and it's been that way for a long time, says state health officer Mary Currier.

There's not one clear explanation. Experts cite a multitude of factors that are also seen in other parts of the country and around the world.

For example, Mississippi leads the nation in obesity, which can carry with it a host of complications that might affect a baby, such as hypertensive disorders, says Dr. Michelle Owens, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Other Southern states with a high prevalence of obesity -- Alabama and Louisiana, for instance -- also have some of the nation's highest rates for infant mortality. A 2010 study also found that overweight and obese women are at higher risk for preterm birth.
Poverty, lack of insurance, and teen pregnancies all contribute to elevated levels of infant deaths and these are more characteristic of Mississippi and its neighboring states than in the rest of the US. Cross-cutting these factors is race. The CDC data show that the infant death rate for blacks in the US (12.67 deaths per live births) is 2.3 times higher than for non-Hispanic whites (5.52) and 2.8 times higher than for Asians, who have the lowest infant mortality of any group (4.51). To be sure, poverty, lack of insurance, and teen births help to account for this difference, but the article points out that black women are much more likely than others to give birth prematurely, which drives up the risk of a baby dying. This has been true for a long time, but no one knows why it happens.

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