Infant mortality rises

February 19, 1991|By Randi Henderson

Baltimore has achieved the dubious distinction of having the worst infant mortality rate for white babies in cities with a population more than 500,000, according to a new report from the Children's Defense Fund.

For all races, Baltimore ranks third in infant mortality compared with other cities its size. It is in seventh place for infant mortality of black babies.

The ranking comes from a Children's Defense Fund report, "Maternal and Child Health in America's Cities," which analyzes data from 1987, the latest year for which statistics are available. In Baltimore, there are 14 deaths per 1,000 live births for white babies, 21.5 for black babies and 19.2 overall. That compares with a U.S. total of 8.6 for white babies, 17.9 for black babies and 10.1 for all races.

The overall infant mortality rate in Baltimore was up from 16.2 in 1986.

Baltimore's high infant mortality rates are not easily explainable, said Dr. Ira Gewolb, division chief of neonatology at the University of Maryland Hospital. But several factors may have an impact, he said, including the state's excellent maternal

transport system, in which high-risk women about to give birth are brought from outside the city to either University or Johns Hopkins Hospital for specialized care.

And, he added, "the bottom line is that infant mortality rates reflect not so much the care that is given to the children after they are born, but the kinds of problems the babies are subjected to before they are born." He cited drug-using mothers, AIDS-infected mothers and lack of prenatal care as factors influencing infant mortality.

Babies born in American cities have a higher mortality rate than babies born in 23 other countries.

The report also found that urban infants are more likely than children living outside cities to die before their first birthday, no matter what the size of the city. This prompted criticism from a CDF official about the Bush administration's plans to reduce funding for programs to fight infant mortality in all but 10 major cities.

"Our findings make it clear that the nation's infant mortality problem cannot be solved through improvement in only 10 cities," said Sara Rosenbaum, director of the CDF health division.

"There must be a nationwide strategy such as recommended by the president's own advisers last year."

The study also found that children in cities of more than 100,000 are more likely than their non-urban counterparts to have low birth weight, become a teen parent or die of AIDS.

Infant mortality

The 10 worst cities on infant mortality with a population of 500,000 or more, rated according to the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

All Races

Detroit.. .. .. .. 19.7

Washington.. .. .. 19.3

Baltimore .. .. .. 19.2

Memphis, Tenn.. .. 17.7

Philadelphia.. .. 17.3

Chicago.. .. .. .. 16.6

New Orleans.. .. . 15.8

Cleveland.. .. .. 15.5

Indianapolis.. .. 13.3

New York.. .. .. . 12.7


Baltimore.. .. .. 14.0

New York.. .. .. . 11.3

Philadelphia.. .. 11.2

Chicago.. .. .. .. 10.9

Memphis, Tenn... . 10.6

Cleveland.. .. .. 10.5

Houston.. .. .. .. 9.8

Phoenix, Ariz.. .. 9.7

Indianapolis.. .. . 9.6

San Diego.. .. .. . 9.4


Indianapolis.. .. 23.7

Philadelphia.. .. 23.6

Detroit.. .. .. .. 23.0

Chicago.. .. .. .. 22.9

Washington.. .. .. 22.8

Memphis, Tenn... . 21.5

Baltimore.. .. .. 21.1

Los Angeles.. .. ..21.1

Jacksonville, Fla. 20.3

Cleveland.. .. .. 20.0

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, calculated by the Children's Defense Fund

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