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Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Greg Butler
Thursday, December 12, 2002
(212) 788-5290
(877) 640-1347
 

CITYWIDE INFANT MORTALITY RATE REACHES LOW, BUT RACIAL AND GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITIES PERSIST IN CERTAIN COMMUNITIES

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Presents 2001 Infant Mortality Data

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH announced today that the New York City Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for 2001 dropped to a new low of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births – a decrease of 9% compared to the 2000 IMR of 6.7. The City IMR is also lower than the national IMR of 6.9 in 2000, the most recent year for which national data are available. Several factors contributed to this decline – most notably there are fewer deaths among infants born premature and/or with low birthweight, and fewer infant deaths from respiratory distress.

Dr. Frieden said, "6.1 is the lowest IMR in the City's history and continues a long-term trend of declining infant mortality rates in New York City. However, unacceptably high racial and geographic disparities persist in some communities. For example, children born to black non-Hispanic mothers have an infant mortality rate of 10.0, more than twice the rate of those born to white non-Hispanic mothers (4.2). We must address these disparities by targeting resources to those communities in greatest need and connecting at-risk women to available services."

In response to infant mortality disparities in New York City, DOHMH has two initiatives in place aimed at communities that continue to have high IMRs. The Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative and Healthy Start Brooklyn link pregnant women to prenatal care and supportive services early in pregnancy. These programs also raise awareness of factors that can contribute to infant mortality, emphasize the importance of being as healthy as possible before pregnancy, and promote DOHMH's Women's Healthline (212/718 230-1111), which provides information on reproductive issues and appointments for prenatal care. In October, DOHMH also developed an educational video and brochure entitled Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies that target women in high-risk communities. Both are available in English and Spanish, and the brochure will soon be available in Haitian-Creole and French.

Several factors influence infant mortality rates and birth outcomes, including:

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs during pregnancy;
  • A woman's health before and during pregnancy;
  • Access to and quality of prenatal care;
  • Levels of stress and social support during and after pregnancy;
  • Knowledge about infant sleep position and other risk factors for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome); and
  • Socio-economic status of women.

Incidence of multiple births, the survival rates of low-birthweight infants, and number of deaths from SIDS can vary from year-to-year, and may cause annual fluctuations in the IMR. New York City's IMR for 2001 – 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births – is based on a total of 760 infants who died at less than one year of age out of a total of 124,024 live births. There were 79 fewer infant deaths in 2001 than in 2000.

IMR By Community

Infant mortality rates vary by community, and rates historically fluctuate from year-to-year since they are based on relatively small numbers of infant deaths. In health center districts where infant mortality increased in 2001, detailed analysis has identified increases in multiple births, extremely low birthweight and premature infants as the main causes.

  • Kips Bay-Yorkville in Manhattan is the neighborhood with the lowest IMR in the City (1.4), followed by Red Hook-Gowanus, Brooklyn (2.1), and Williamsburg-Greenpoint, Brooklyn (2.2).
  • At 13.1, Central Harlem in Manhattan had the highest IMR in 2001. With an IMR of 10.0, Bedford, Brooklyn, was the only other neighborhood in the City with a double-digit IMR in 2001.
  • 5 contiguous communities in Brooklyn had IMRs above the citywide rate of 6.1: Bedford (10.0), Brownsville (8.0), Bushwick (7.4), Flatbush (7.4), and Fort Greene (6.5). Over the past decade, these five Brooklyn communities have experienced a higher IMR higher than the citywide average, underscoring their continuing need for targeted intervention services.
  • Among the boroughs, the IMR decreased 20% in the Bronx from 7.4 in 2000 to 5.9, 16 % in Queens from 5.8 to 4.9, 13% in Brooklyn from 6.9 to 6.0, and 10% in Staten Island from 6.1 to 5.5. The IMR for Manhattan increased 6%, from 5.1 to 5.4.
  • A table featuring IMR broken down by neighborhood for 2001 is available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/public/pr108-imr.pdf. Visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/public/pr19a.pdf for previous years dating back to 1990 or for more comprehensive vital statistics including IMR data for New York City, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/vs/vs.shtml.

New York City offers many resources for pregnant women, new mothers, and women considering pregnancy, including:

  • Women's Healthline (212- or 718-230-1111);
  • New York Smokers' Quitline (1-888-609-6292);
  • Great Start Quitline – for pregnant smokers operated by American Legacy Foundation (1-866-667-8278);
  • LIFENET for free, confidential counseling and referrals (1-800-LIFENET/543-3638);
  • HealthStat for free or low-cost health insurance (1-888-NYC-6116);
  • Early Intervention Program for evaluation and services for babies with developmental problems (1-800-577-BABY/2229);
  • Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-621-HOPE/4673).

DOHMH has also assembled an Infant Mortality Case Review Committee to examine the social and medical circumstances of infant deaths in New York City. Health care professionals and community representatives will review infant deaths in order to develop intervention strategies and policy recommendations that address ethnic and geographic disparities in infant mortality.

For more information, call the Women's Healthline at (212/718 230-1111), or visit nyc.gov/health.

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