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Comparing Infant Mortality in Washington D.C. with the U.S. Average

Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2017
While the overall infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 6.1 infants per 1,000 births, there are significant differences in infant mortality rates between states and even at the local level affected by social and economic barriers. Washington D.C. is a startling example of the gaps in birth outcomes.
The US infant mortality rate is the highest of all G7 countries (the seven democratic industrialized countries that make up over 50% of the global economic production). An infant born in the US is three times as likely to die before turning one year old than a child born in Japan or Finland, and twice as likely to perish as in Korea or Spain.

While the overall infant mortality rate in the U.S. is 6.1 infants per 1,000 births, there are significant differences in infant mortality rates between states and even at the local level affected by social and economic barriers. Washington D.C. is a startling example of the gaps in birth outcomes.

Local Issues

In a report from American Health Rankings, the infant mortality rate in D.C. is approximately 7.3 per 1,000 living births. But the numbers vary between neighborhoods. For example, in a 2012 survey, infant mortality was more than 10 times higher in Ward 8, where half of all families live below the poverty line, than in the wealthiest Ward 3.

Racial Discrepancies

Ward 8 is also 93.5% African American, compared to 5% in Ward 3, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. The primary difference appears to be one of access to healthcare and education. African American women are at higher risk for obesity and diabetes, which impacts pregnancies and birth outcomes. Fewer of these women receive recommended prenatal care. Further, limitations in accessing prenatal, both financially and logistically (time away from work, distance to providers, lack of transportation, etc.) burden this population.

The Health of Our National Healthcare

Infant mortality rates as a key indicator used to evaluate the social and economic status and quality of life globally and are regularly measured and reported by WHO, the UN, and the World Bank. For a country that far outspends other developed nations in healthcare (17.1% of its GDP in 2013 compared to the U.K.'s spending of 8.8%), infant mortality rate is far higher indicating some systemic flaws and social barriers. Washington D.C. has higher infant mortality rate compared to the national average, with a much higher rate for African American and low income mothers. Its time to address these social and economic issues and allocate the funding to reach all sectors of the population.