The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the infant mortality rate in the United States increased by 3% last year, which is the highest it has been in 20 years.
The death rates for White and Native American infants, infant boys, and babies born at 37 weeks or earlier have significantly increased. According to the CDC’s report released on Wednesday, there were also notable increases in two of the main causes of infant mortality – maternal complications and bacterial meningitis.
Marie Thoma, a researcher at the University of Maryland who specializes in studying maternal and infant mortality, expressed her concern over the recent trend. It is alarming to see it moving in the opposite direction of what it has been.
Philadelphia neonatologist Dr. Eric Eichenwald expressed concern about the new information, but acknowledged that currently, there is only speculation among experts about the sudden increase in a statistic that has been steadily declining for many years.
In the autumn of last year, there was a resurgence of RSV and flu cases, following two years of taking precautions due to the pandemic. This resulted in an increase of pediatric emergency room visits nationwide. Eichenwald, who leads a committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics that creates medical care recommendations for newborns, suggested that this could be a contributing factor.
The rate of infant mortality is determined by the number of babies who pass away before their first birthday. To accurately compare this rate over time, researchers use calculations instead of raw numbers, as the number of births in the U.S. changes annually. Experts attribute the higher infant mortality rate in the U.S. compared to other wealthy nations to issues such as poverty and inadequate prenatal care. However, due to advancements in medicine and public health initiatives, the U.S. rate has generally seen gradual improvement.
According to the latest report, the national infant mortality rate increased to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2022, compared to 5.44 deaths per 1,000 in the previous year.
Although the increase may appear minimal, it marks the first significant rise in the rate since the increase between 2001 and 2002, according to Danielle Ely, the lead author of the CDC report. Ely also noted that researchers were unable to determine if the 2022 increase was a one-time statistical anomaly or the start of a longer-lasting trend.
In the United States, the mortality rate dropped by 5% in 2022, which is believed to be due to the diminishing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among individuals aged 65 and above. Additionally, there was a decrease in maternal deaths in the U.S. last year.
In 2022, the infant mortality rates in over 30 states increased slightly, while four states – Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas – experienced significant increases according to statistical analysis.
The number of infant deaths in the United States exceeded 20,500 in 2022, which was 610 more than the previous year. However, Georgia saw an increase of 116 infant deaths compared to the previous year, while Texas saw an increase of 251.
According to Ely, it seems that certain states may be playing a significant role in the overall rate, while smaller increases in other areas also contribute to the impact. It is difficult to determine the specific locations, policies, or other factors that are influencing the national statistic.
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