November 6, 2023

Indiana among 10 worst states for infant mortality

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The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed continuing disparities of who is harmed by infant mortality. The highest rate for 2022 was among Black, non-Hispanic infants, with a small increase from the previous year.  - IPB file photo

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed continuing disparities of who is harmed by infant mortality. The highest rate for 2022 was among Black, non-Hispanic infants, with a small increase from the previous year.

IPB file photo

The rate of infant deaths in the country increased in 2022, marking the first year-to-year increase in two decades. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Indiana remained among the ten worst states for infant mortality.

In 2021, Indiana’s infant mortality rate was 10th highest in the country — with 6.75 deaths for every 1,000 live births. CDC data for 2022 shows the state has the seventh highest provisional rate at 7.16.

Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, said policies that limit access to reproductive care contribute to Indiana’s high infant mortality rate.

“The data that we're seeing coming out of the CDC is the very beginning of a trickle of data that we're going to start to see on the long term impacts of these decisions,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said she expects these rates to continue to rise as the data starts to reflect the impact of the state’s near-total abortion ban.

“It's devastating to families,” Wilkinson said. “It's devastating to communities. It's devastating to the health systems in which these infant deaths occur, but until we decide to tackle this holistically, we are not going to see changes in the directions that we hope for.”

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The CDC report showed continuing disparities of who is harmed by infant mortality. The highest rate for 2022 was among Black, non-Hispanic infants, with a small increase from the previous year. The largest increase in infant mortality rate was American Indian and Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants. That demographic group now has the second highest mortality rate.

Wilkinson said addressing infant mortality requires policy to recognize these disparities.

“When you see disparities in outcomes, that means you need to lean even more to supporting and making sure that there's equitable access to all the systems that need to be in place to fix those disparities,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said infant mortality rates are also affected by lack of access to transportation, housing, food and adequate care.

The last time Indiana’s rate was above seven deaths per 1,000 births was in 2017, when the state had the seventh highest rate in the country.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at aruhman@wboi.org.

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