Infant mortality rate climbs in US. It's personal for one nonprofit

6abc Digital Staff Image
Friday, November 3, 2023
Infant mortality rate climbs. It's personal for one nonprofit
Infant mortality rate climbs. It's person for one Philadelphia nonprofit

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- New figures out this week show the infant mortality rate in the U.S. rose by 3%. That's the first time in two decades.

Mortality rates also increased significantly for two of the 10 leading causes of death: blood infections and maternal complications.

Health experts say the bigger story is tied to maternal care.

"The infant mortality rates in this country are following the maternal mortality rates in this country," said Jenne Johns of Once Upon a Preemie. "The data is suggesting the health and vitality of the mom is impacting the health and vitality of the baby."

It seems obvious, but doctors say a big factor is maternity care deserts, where there's a lack of services for pregnant women.

Access is even worse for pregnant women of color.

The Philadelphia Health Department says the maternal mortality rate is four times higher among Black women.

For Johns, this is personal. She started the national nonprofit Once Upon a Preemie, based in East Falls, to advocate for equitable care for expectant moms in our local healthcare systems.

"Helping health care centers treat, respect, and hear families when they're crying for help during their most vulnerable time of their birthing journey," she said.

Not long ago, Pennsylvania lawmakers formed the Pennsylvania Black Maternal Health Caucus to address disturbing trends for both maternal and infant mortality.