Doctor talks about racial disparity in NC infant mortality rates

Doctor talks about racial disparity in NC infant mortality rates

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Earlier this month, Governor Roy Cooper announced North Carolina’s infant death rate in 2019 reached the lowest rate in the 31 years they have been tracked, decreasing for the third straight year.

According to the newly released 2018 North Carolina Infant Mortality Report, 806 infant deaths were recorded to residents of the state in 2018 compared to 852 in 2017. Both the percent decline and the total numbers reported in 2018 are all-time lows.

However, the report reflects significant disparities persist in infant mortality depending on race.

For white babies, the rate has remained steady at five infant deaths for every 1,000 births. For African American babies, the rate is 12.2 deaths per 1,000 births.

The African American infant mortality rate has decreased by 9 percent since 2016, but is still more than twice that of the white infant mortality rate.

“In regards to the racial disparity it’s a complex topic and it’s tough to say exactly one thing but when you’re looking at infant mortality a large portion of that is pre-term births. With that you have certain factors that you really don’t have much control over like a history of pre-term birth or a shortened cervix. Those are things we can’t affect,” said Dr. Nicholas Bodenheimer, an OBGYN at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center

Bodenheimer said there are also behavioral risk factors which can lead to pre-term births, which indirectly impacts infant mortality.

“Those are things like smoking, substance abuse, and short interval pregnancy. What that means is after delivery becoming pregnant again in a relatively short amount of time,” Bodenheimer explained.

Bodenheimer said doctors at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center and across the state are working to make sure pregnancies are intended, reverse misconceptions about long-term reversible contraception, and provide preventative care.

“I think North Carolina as a whole is doing a good job. I think the Community Care of North Carolina as well as pregnancy medicaid, they have a lot of women of diverse backgrounds obtain the pre-natal care and support they need,” Bodenheimer said.

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