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CDC: U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Declined 3 Percent in 2006

But rates vary widely by race, with highest rates seen in infants born to black mothers

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Between 2005 and 2006, the overall U.S. infant mortality rate declined by 3 percent. However, the rate varied widely by race and ethnicity, and very preterm infants accounted for more than half of all infant deaths, according to a new report -- Infant Mortality Statistics From the 2006 Period Linked Birth Infant Death Data Set -- released April 30 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

T.J. Mathews and Marian F. MacDorman, Ph.D., of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md., presented data based on birth and infant death certificates registered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.

The researchers found that the infant mortality rate declined from 6.86 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 6.68 in 2006, representing a 3 percent decline. However, they found significant racial disparities, observing the lowest mortality rates in infants born to Central and South American mothers (4.52) and Asian/Pacific Islander mothers (4.55), and the highest rates in infants born to non-Hispanic black mothers (13.35). They also found that very preterm (less than 32 weeks of gestation) infants accounted for 54 percent of all infant deaths in 2006, but noted that the mortality rate among late preterm infants (34 to 36 weeks of gestation) was three times higher than among term infants (37 to 41 weeks of gestation).

"The three leading causes of infant death -- congenital malformations, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome -- taken together accounted for 46 percent of all infant deaths," the authors write. "The percentage of infant deaths that were 'preterm-related' was 36.1 percent in 2006. The preterm-related infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic black mothers was 3.4 times higher and the rate for Puerto Rican mothers was 84 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white mothers."

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