Using data from the national linked birth/infant death cohort files, we examined race/ethnicity/nativity disparities and changes in infant mortality due to the five leading causes of infant death between 1989 and 2001. Our results indicate substantial decreases in infant mortality from three causes (congenital anomalies, sudden infant death syndrome, and respiratory distress syndrome) for which specific perinatal health innovations emerged or were expanded. However, for these three causes, the relative disparities in infant mortality between infants born to U.S.-born black women as compared to infants of U.S.-born white women increased following the introduction (or expansion) of beneficial interventions. Among infants of U.S.-born Mexican American mothers, the findings differed. In the static comparisons, our results show the often-reported similarity in the risk of death of these babies compared to those born to non-Hispanic white mothers. However, when changes over time were modeled, there was an erosion of the relatively favorable survival chances of Mexican American infants. Our models show little change in the relative risk of death for infants of immigrant women. Regarding the other two causes (disorders relating to short gestation and unspecified low birth weight and maternal complications) for which no efficacious innovations occurred, either little change or actual increases in risks were observed. Future studies and health policy efforts should be geared toward further understanding and aggressively working to close infant mortality gaps, especially for infants of U.S.-born black mothers—an effort that will be facilitated by research focused on cause-specific infant mortality.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 3, 2009
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