Healthy Start Coalition celebrates improving infant mortality statistics

Coalition members celebrate improvement in infant mortality statistics.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - According to new statistics provided by the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, infant mortality rates for the black population of Indian River County are dramatically improving.

Mortality rates for white and Hispanic infants were also very good in 2018, but the improvement was most significant for blacks.

“In 2016, Indian River County was one of the highest in the country for infant mortality for blacks,” said CEO Andrea Berry of the Indian River County Healthy Start Coalition, referring to a year in which five black infants died in the county. “In 2017, that number became zero, and in 2018, just one.”

In 2018, Indian River County had 4.4 black infant deaths per 1,000 births. That compares to 24.8 deaths per 1,000 births in 2016 and a high of 38.8 deaths per 1,000 births in 2012, when nine infants died.

Across all racial groups, Indian River County had only two infant deaths in 2018, one black and one white. This is by far the lowest number of the past decade.

“There are many programs that Healthy Start offers that directly impact these numbers,” Ms. Berry said, “so, needless to say, we are excited about keeping on the positive track overall with infant mortality rates and want people to know things can improve with community involvement.”

According to Healthy Start, infant mortality can be caused by such factors as short gestation and low birth weight, maternal complications of pregnancy, congenital malformations, deformations, and chromosomal abnormalities, and unintentional injuries. Each of these can be caused by chronic health conditions, substance abuse, lack of prenatal care, and institutional and systemic disparities.

Infant mortality rates for whites and Hispanics have historically been much better than for blacks.

In 2018, Indian River County had 1.0 white infant deaths per 1,000 births, but 2017 was one of the worst years of the last decade, with 8.5 deaths (seven infants) per 1,000 births.

For Hispanics, in 2018 there were zero infant deaths per 1,000 births, a dramatic improvement from 2017, when there were 11.5 infant deaths per 1,000 births.

In 2018 there were 975 white births in the county, 226 black births, and 253 Hispanic births. The state statistics include a fourth category called “other race” in which there were 93 births (and zero infant deaths) in the county.

The improvement for black infants in Indian River County has not been reflected statewide, where the number of black infant deaths per 1,000 births has remained above 10 for each of the last 10 years.

Indian River County Healthy Start Coalition is located at 1555 Indian River Blvd., Ste B241, Vero Beach. For more information, visit irchealthystart.org or call (772) 563-9118.

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