Oct 5, 2023 - Health

Black Bostonians have twice the average infant mortality rate

Illustration of a crib sitting beneath a mobile with a hanging medical cross

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Black Boston residents experience the highest rates of infant mortality, preterm births and low birth rates, according to a new city report.

Driving the news: The mortality rate among Black infants in Boston was 9.7 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021 — more than twice the city average of 4.6 deaths per 1,000 — per new data released today by the Boston Public Health Commission.

  • It's more than three times the rate among white infants (3.2 deaths per 1,000).

Zoom out: Black infants had the highest mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the city between 2017 and 2021.

Plus: In 2021, Black babies and mothers in Boston also experienced nearly twice the percentage of low birthweight and preterm births as white infants and mothers, respectively.

The big picture: Nationally, Black infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants: 10.8 per 1,000 Black infants versus 4.6 per 1,000 white infants, Axios' Shawna Chen reported.

Zoom in: Hyde Park, which is predominantly Black, had the highest infant mortality rate of any Boston neighborhood with 7.8 deaths per 1,000 from 2012 to 2021.

  • Roslindale, which is one-quarter Black, had the lowest at 2.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

What they're saying: Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, tells Axios more focus needs to be on "the root cause ... whether it be institutional racism within the health care institution or talking about structural racism and what's impacting the environments in which women live."

  • Ojikutu noted that some recent "wonderful programs" at Boston nonprofits have focused on income inequality and other environmental risk factors.
  • But, she said, many still often don't address the impact of racism on health, which affects mothers across income levels.

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