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Friday Facts: Infant Mortality in California

Friday Facts: Infant Mortality in California

Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we'll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we're focusing on the infant mortality rate in California.

Today’s Friday Facts focuses on some sobering statistics about infant mortality in California. While the majority of births happen without incident, unfortunately, for every thousand babies born, there are a small number that don’t survive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the causes of infant mortality include serious birth defects, premature births, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and other injuries. 

While infant mortality impacts every community in California, there are some significant disparities. As you can see in our Friday Facts table, the infant mortality rate for African Americans (10.5 per 1,000) is nearly twice that of any other individual racial or ethnic group. This disparity is not unique for California, and according to the CDC, African Americans (13.3 per 1,000) have an infant mortality rate nearly twice the national average (6.8 per 1,000). The CDC also found that preterm-related causes were the driving factor behind this disparity, but African Americans also had higher rates of SIDS and congenital malformations compared to Whites.

There are many factors that contribute to these disparities, including economic inequality. However, the infant mortality rate for African Americans is much higher than any other racial or ethnic group, even those that also experience higher rates of adverse social and environmental conditions. In our report, The Landscape of Opportunity: Cultivating Health Equity in California, we touched on why this particular disparity is so prevalent:

“Institutional racism is a root cause of some of the disparities faced by our communities. The stress brought on by diminished opportunities and pervasive discrimination can worsen all health outcomes, particularly birth-related ones. For example, studies controlling for education, income, and insurance status show African American women experience much higher rates of low birth weight births and infant mortality than women of other races.”

This theory is gaining support from ongoing research, and addressing the connection between racism and infant mortality is becoming a primary focal point for reducing this disparity. Many organizations and health professionals are working hard to develop strategies to improve the health of infants, particularly African Americans. If you know of any good resources, please share them in the comments. 

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