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Black Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates in NC, Across the South Are the Worst in the Nation

Source: NC Health News

Black Maternal Health Week was held April 11-17, but looking at disparities in maternal health and mortality statistics between Black and white babies across the South shows that more than a week is needed to focus on these issues.

According to North Carolina Health News, by 2030 the federal government wants infant mortality to fall to five or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births – a level that 16 states have already met or surpassed. None of those states are in the South, where infant mortality is the highest in the country. Mississippi is the worst in the nation with 8.12 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Even in southern states where the infant mortality rate is getting closer to the national average, there is still a massive gap between the death rates of Black and white babies.

In Florida and North Carolina, the Black infant mortality rate is more than twice as high as it is for white babies. North Carolina ranks as the 10th worst state for infant deaths, according to WRAL.

When looking at the maternal mortality rate, Black mothers are three times more likely than white mothers to die in connection with childbirth in North Carolina. According to America’s Health Rankings, our state’s Black maternal mortality rate from 2016 to 2020 was 52.8 compared to the 17.3 rate for white mothers and 10.7 for Hispanic mothers. More than 80 percent of these deaths are preventable, according to data collected from Maternal Mortality Review Committees

A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that between 1999 and 2020, Black people in the US experienced more than 1.6 million excess deaths and 80 million years of life lost because of increased mortality risk as compared to white Americans. The study also discovered that infants and older Black Americans are the most impacted when it comes to excess deaths and years lost.

North Carolina advocates and health care professionals from across the state have called for policy changes that would center increased resources, investments in midwifery and doula care, and awareness of maternal health disparities. 

Reporting by USA Today found that the South, where more than half of the nation’s Black population resides, has seen significant labor, delivery, and hospital closures throughout its rural communities. 

In North Carolina, rural hospital financial insecurity and closures are not unfamiliar, as more than six have closed in the eastern region of the state since 2010.

While rural women in general have a higher maternal mortality risk, rural Black women are at a disproportionately higher risk.


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