News from the FDA/CDC

Health disparity: Race, mortality, and infants of teenage mothers


Infants born to Black teenage mothers are significantly more likely to die than infants born to White or Hispanic teens, according to a new analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Leading causes of infant mortality by race/ethnicity, 2017-2018

In 2017-2018, overall mortality rates were 12.5 per 100,000 live births for infants born to Black mothers aged 15-19 years, 8.4 per 100,000 for infants born to White teenagers, and 6.5 per 100,000 for those born to Hispanic teens, Ashley M. Woodall, MPH, and Anne K. Driscoll, PhD, of the NCHS said in a data brief.

Looking at the five leading causes of those deaths shows that deaths of Black infants were the highest by significant margins in four, although, when it comes to “disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight,” significant may be an understatement.

The rate of preterm/low-birth-weight deaths for white infants in 2017-2018 was 119 per 100,000 live births; for Hispanic infants it was 94 per 100,000. Among infants born to Black teenagers, however, it was 284 deaths per 100,000, they reported based on data from the National Vital Statistics System’s linked birth/infant death file.

The numbers for congenital malformations and accidents were closer but still significantly different, and with each of the three most common causes, the rates for infants of Hispanic mothers also were significantly lower than those of White infants, the researchers said.

The situation changes for mortality-cause No. 4, sudden infant death syndrome, which was significantly more common among infants born to White teenagers, with a rate of 91 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with either black (77) or Hispanic (44) infants, Ms. Woodall and Dr. Driscoll said.

Infants born to Black teens had the highest death rate again (68 per 100,000) for maternal complications of pregnancy, the fifth-leading cause of mortality, but for the first time Hispanic infants had a higher rate (36) than did those of White teenagers (29), they reported.

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