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200 Black Fetal and Infant Deaths Could Be Prevented Each Year

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Black Infant Mortality Rate Has Remained Unchanged Since 2008

Each year in Illinois, approximately 145,000 live-born infants, and 950 infants die before their first birthday. While the overall infant mortality rate for Illinois infants decreased almost 25% between 2000 and 2018, approximately two-thirds of all infant deaths still occurred during the neonatal period and disproportionally impacted Black babies.

  • Infant mortality: the death of an infant before their first birthday
  • Neonatal mortality: the death of an infant between 0-27 days after birth
  • Post-neonatal mortality: the death of an infant between days 28-364 after birth

Illinois remains home to historical racial disparities in infant mortality. Across all years during 2000-2018, Black infants in Illinois had an infant mortality rate two to three times as high as White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander infants.

Trends in Illinois Infant Mortality and Black Fetal and Infant Deaths

Key findings from the Illinois Infant Mortality Report (released in December 2020) include:

  • In 2018, the infant mortality rate was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, slightly higher than the U.S. national rate of 5.7 per 1,000.
  • In 2018, Illinois ranked 36th out of 50 states in infant mortality.
  • The overall infant mortality rate decreased 22% from 2000 to 2018, but this decline was not equal across racial groups.
    • While the infant mortality rate in Illinois declined among White and Hispanic infants during 2000-2018, it only declined during 2000-2008 for Black infants.
    • Since 2008, the Black infant mortality rate has remained unchanged.
  • The leading causes of death for infants in 2018 were: prematurity or fetal malnutrition, congenital disabilities, sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), and complications during pregnancy and delivery.
  • Deaths during the first 28 days of life make up about two-thirds of infant deaths.
  • The period of risk with the most opportunity to prevent Black fetal/infant deaths and reduce racial disparities is the “maternal health/prematurity” period. Interventions to improve health in this period could target preconception health, perinatal care, and social determinants of health for Black women.
  • While SUID rates among infants born to White and Hispanic mothers have remained stable since 2000, the SUID rate among infants born to Black mothers has increased by 38% since 2009.
  • If babies of Black women had fetal and infant mortality rates that were the same as the babies of low-risk White women, 212 Black fetal and infant deaths would be prevented each year.

In 2019, NPR reported that losing a baby before their first birthday happens far more often to Black mothers than other women in Illinois. Nearly two-thirds of infant deaths occur during the first month after birth, often from complications from preterm births and preterm labor, a significant contributor to racial disparities in infant mortality.

Legal Help for Black Maternal Death and Black Infant Wrongful Death and Birth Injuries in Chicago, Illinois

If you suspect medical negligence or believe a racial disparity or racism may have contributed to an injury or death of your unborn baby or infant, please contact Levin & Perconti toll-free at 877-374-1417, or in Chicago at (312) 332-2872 for a FREE consultation.

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health. (2020). Illinois Infant Mortality Report (December 2020). Office of Women’s Health and Family Services.