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Health & Pregnancy

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Black Babies Have Higher Death Rate

WebMD Health News

April 19, 2002 -- Black infants are five times more likely than white infants to die within the first year of life, according to a disturbing new report released today by the CDC.

Between 1995 and 1998, CDC researchers investigated infant death rates in the 60 largest U.S. cities.

Overall, infant death rates ranged from 4.5 to 15.4 per 1,000 live births. In all 49 cities reporting both black and white infant death rates, black babies were more likely to die than white babies. Depending on the city, the rates were 1.4-1.8 times higher for blacks than whites. The black infant death rate was substantially higher than the death rate for both white and Hispanic infants.

The highest infant death rates were linked to "very-low and moderately-low birth weight infants, births to teenage mothers, late or absent prenatal care, and racial segregation," the researchers write.

Interestingly, this racial disparity cannot be fully explained by differences in socioeconomic status, according to the researchers. Even "black infants born to college-educated parents have higher [death rates] than white infants born to parents of similar educational background; this difference is attributed to a higher rate of very-low birth weight," they write.

This suggests that "a complex interaction of social, environmental, and biologic factors that are experienced uniquely by black women might account for the disparity."

In general, babies were more likely to die in Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast cities than in Pacific West and West Central cities.

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