National Institute on Aging

University of Wisconsin Study Finds Sharp Rise in Black Infant Mortality

med school_4c_LAs study conducted at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin in Madison finds that the economic recession coupled with a drop in medical and social support programs for expectant mothers may be the cause of a spike in the infant mortality rate for African Americans in the area.

The study examined more than 100,000 birth and death records in Dane County, Wisconsin. The authors report that from 2004 to 2007, the infant mortality rate for Blacks and Whites was about the same. But from 2008 to 2010, the infant mortality rate for Blacks increased while the rate for Whites remained steady. The infant mortality rate for Blacks was seven per 1,000 live births in 2007 but increased to 15 per 1,000 live births in 2010.

Lee Dresang, a professor at the School of Medicine and Public Health stated, “For black babies during the first year of life, economic stress trumps medical and social services. The worsening economy has probably affected the black and not the white infant mortality rate since 2008 because the social and economic stress that black families face is so much greater than that for white families.”

Dr. Dresang explained that “The improvement in infant mortality for black families in 2002 to 2007 was due to prenatal care including medical and non-medical support. When the economy worsened, support probably decreased while needs increased and outcomes suffered. The social and economic stress was such that the social safety net was inadequate for black families while still adequate for white families.”

The research was published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.


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