Infant mortality rates in Arkansas and Missouri raise concerns, CDC report reveals

FILE - The toes of a baby peek out of a blanket at a hospital in McAllen, Texas. On Wednesday,...
FILE - The toes of a baby peek out of a blanket at a hospital in McAllen, Texas. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the increase of U.S. infant mortality rate to 3% in 2022 — a rare increase in a death statistic that has been generally been falling for decades.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 4:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - In a recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shed light on the dire state of infant mortality in the United States.

Arkansas emerged as a concerning hotspot, with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, reporting a staggering 8.5 infant deaths before the age of one per 1,000 births. Neighboring Missouri isn’t far behind, with a rate of 5.8.

These statistics come as a wake-up call to the nation, prompting renewed discussions on the critical importance of access to healthcare for expectant mothers and newborns. The CDC report also highlights an increase in infants who died from pregnancy complications and bacterial sepsis.

Ruth Brown, the coordinator for maternal child health with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, expressed her concern about the newly released data.

“Overall, I think it’s just a disturbing and alarming statistic to see,” she said.

Missouri is one of the states experiencing the most significant increase in infant mortality, alongside Georgia, Iowa, and Texas.

Nationally, the United States has seen a 3% increase in infant mortality over the previous year, leaving experts scrambling to pinpoint the root causes behind this trend.

While the precise reasons for this surge remain elusive, many experts in the Ozarks suspect that healthcare deserts may play a significant role.

“It’s kind of nine months of being able to work with your doctor to establish risks. So, you’re looking for things going out of the norm so you can prevent and deal with them in the appropriate setting that’s going to reduce the numbers of maternal and fetal complications,” said Dr. Roger Nightengale, a family physician with Mercy Aurora.

Healthcare deserts, characterized by a lack of nearby hospitals, inadequate transportation options, and limited resources in the crucial early days of infancy, are believed to be contributing to the rise in infant mortality. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department had already identified these factors before the release of the CDC report.

To address this pressing issue, a new program called “Family Connects” is set to launch in 2024, aiming to bridge the healthcare gap for families in Greene County, Missouri. The program will kick off with bedside visits by nurses to help both new mothers and their infants, offering critical support to improve access to healthcare.

“Transportation remains a barrier in our community. So, for the nurse to be able to provide care in the home and then be able to provide them resources and get them connected with a provider, get them connected with transportation resources,” Brown explained.

Initiatives like Family Connects may play a vital role in addressing the healthcare disparities that endanger the lives of newborns and their mothers.

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