The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released provisional data showing the largest percentage increase in infant mortality in more than two decades, revealing 20,538 deaths reported in 2022, an increase of 3% from the previous year. While infant mortality rates significantly increased overall to 5.6 per 1,000 live births, rates among American Indian/Alaskan Native and Black babies are 2.3 times higher than rates among White and Hispanic babies, underscoring the persistent disparities that continue to the widen the health equity gap.
In response, March of Dimes President and CEO Dr. Elizabeth Cherot issued the following statement:
"It’s disappointing to see such a significant increase in infant deaths after the country has witnessed a steady decline over the last 10 years. As we look ahead to the release of our 2023 March of Dimes Report Card on the state of maternal and infant health later this month, we had been encouraged by the fact that more babies were surviving in the U.S. With today's news, we're disheartened to see that we're now trending in the wrong direction.
Not surprisingly, the data on infant deaths echoes the same persistent disparities that plague communities of color that we are seeing across key maternal and infant health indicators. While infant mortality increased for nearly all racial and ethnic groups, American Indian/Alaskan Native and Black (AIAN) families face significantly higher risk, a trend we also see in preterm birth, as well as maternal mortality and morbidity. While AIAN infants saw a staggering 21% increase last year, the infant mortality rate for Black babies is the highest among all other groups.
What's more, the data shows some of the causes of infant death are attributed to preterm birth as well as maternal complications and bacterial sepsis—which accounted for 9% and 14% of deaths respectively. We know the health of mom and baby are intertwined. Today's data underscores that our failure to better support moms before, during, and after birth is among the factors contributing to poor infant health outcomes.
As we examine the variety of reasons for this troubling increase—including the surge in RSV, flu, and Covid infections last year—we will continue to advocate for what we already know has worked, such as the importance of eligible pregnant people and babies staying up-to-date on their vaccines. Over the last decade several factors contributed to the decline in infant mortality, including improved survivability for babies born preterm (2% improvement from 2013 - 2018 compared to the 5 years prior). Additional factors include innovations like newborn screening and surfactant therapy, and the greater adoption of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (PQCs)—key initiatives of March of Dimes. Importantly, our upcoming Report Card will include information on those states that have active Fetal and Infant Mortality Review teams, which play a key role in identifying and reviewing causes of infant death.
March of Dimes believes maternal and infant health is fundamental to the health of our society and calls on all those affected and concerned by this crisis—including advocates and corporate partners—to join us to ensure every mom and baby get the best possible start."
ABOUT MARCH OF DIMES
March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs, and provide education and advocacy so that every family gets the best possible start. Building on a successful 85-year legacy, we support every pregnant person and every family. To learn more about March of Dimes, please visit marchofdimes.org.