Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Black infants had twice the death rate of white infants in the United States, even while the overall rate decreased from 2016, a new study says.
In 2017, black infants had both the highest mortality rate at 10.97 deaths per 1,000 births and the highest neonatal mortality rate at 7.16 deaths per 1,000 births, according to a National Vital Statistics Report published Thursday. By contrast, white infants had a mortality rate of 4.67 deaths per 1,000 births.
Overall, Asian-American infants had the lowest mortality rate at 3.78 deaths per 1,000 births.
The Centers for Disease Control defines infant mortality as the death of any baby younger than 1-year-old.
"Although rates have declined substantially since 1995, there has been a slowdown in the rate of decline and the infant mortality rate has remained stable over the last couple of years," Danielle Ely, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and study lead author, told UPI.
Young mothers had the worst birth outcomes. Infants born to women under age 20 faced mortality rates of 9.01 deaths per 1,000 births, while women between ages 30 and 34 had a rate of 4.76 deaths per 1,000 births.
And since the last report was published in 2016, the infant mortality rate rose to 5.35 deaths deaths per 1,000 births for mothers between ages 35 and 39 and to 6.97 deaths deaths per 1,000 births for mothers over age 40.
More black infants died of causes linked to short pregnancy, low birth weight and maternal complications than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the report.
Both neonatal and postneonatal mortality rates for infants were also highest for black infants, followed by Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaska Natives. The neonatal period is from birth to 1 month, and postneonatal is from 1 month to 1 year old.
Preterm births accounted for 67 percent of infant deaths in 2017.
In 2017, 21 percent of infants died from congenital malformations, 17 percent died from conditions related to short gestation and low birthweight, and 6 percent died from sudden infant death syndrome.
The good news is overall infant mortality rates have fallen for all racial and ethnic groups since 1996. Yet, the researchers think more could be done to reduce the numbers even more.
"Improvements in many of the areas related to higher infant mortality rates, such as preterm birth, could lower overall infant mortality rates," Ely said.