Despite overall improvements in infant mortality, there continues to be a disparity in infant mortality rates between whites and blacks, a report in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology indicates, Reuters Health reports. Martha Slay Wingate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and colleagues looked at birthweights and gestational ages of infants born to black and white women between 1995 and 2000.
According to the report, the infant mortality rate among whites was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 infants, compared with 11.4 deaths per 1,000 black infants. Among both black and white infants, a greater number of deaths occurred among infants younger than 28 weeks' gestation or weighing below 1,500 grams, considered very low birthweight.
The report found an estimated 3,303 excess infant deaths among blacks during the study period. Of those deaths, slightly more than 20% of infants weighed at least 2,500 grams or were considered to be full-term or greater gestation. More than two-thirds of the excess deaths were among very preterm or very low birthweight infants, the report found.
There was an overall increase in very low birthweights over the study period, according to the report. The proportion of white infants born with very low birthweights increased from 0.4% to 0.6% of all births, while the proportion of black infants with very low birthweights increased from 1.4% to 1.9%.
Wingate said, "The increasing U.S. racial disparity of infant mortality rates between blacks and whites is largely influenced by changes in the survival of infants born earlier and smaller, not changes in birthweight-gestational age distribution."
She said that the increased disparity suggests "a possible inconsistency by race in access to risk-appropriate levels of medical care and technology," adding, "Prenatal care, while not a panacea for preterm birth, may play a role in addressing these access-to-care issues".
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation