© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Black Infant Mortality Rate In Kansas Shows Improvement

A new statistical summary by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows progress in reducing a long-standing health disparity between black and white Kansans: the death rate for babies in their first year of life.


For more than 20 years, black babies have died at a much higher rate than white babies in Kansas. Some years, the difference has been three-fold. But the 2014 Summary of Vital Statistics from KDHE reflects a drop of almost one-third in the black infant mortality rate, from 15.3 per 1,000 live births in 2013 down to 10.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014.


KDHE officials caution against reading too much into the figures, because the numbers are relatively small and there can be large fluctuations year-to-year. Still, it’s the lowest black non-Hispanic infant mortality rate in Kansas since 1998.


J’Vonnah Maryman, who oversees fetal and infant mortality review at the Sedgwick County Health Department, hopes it’s an indication that efforts to address the causes of infant mortality are beginning to pay off.


“That is something that we’re excited to hear about,” she says, noting the rate fell 32.7 percent from 2013 to 2014. “Overall, if you look at a rolling average over a five-year period, it’s also down within the state, so those are all good things.”


However, Maryman says the battle isn’t won yet.


“There is still cause for concern,” she says. “Even though it’s decreasing, and that’s the way that we want it to go, the rate (five-year rolling average) is still approximately 2.6 times higher than that of white non-Hispanic infants.”


Sedgwick County has a higher infant mortality rate than the state as a whole. That’s been true since at least 1985.


“We will continue to work in Sedgwick County to identify the gaps or barriers that we have in resources here, or in education here, so that we can try to minimize the rates here, which weigh heavily on the state of Kansas because of the size and population of Sedgwick County,” Maryman says.


One of those barriers, according to Maryman, is that too many pregnant women and young mothers lack health insurance.


“There’s a good proportion of the cases that we review where the families are not insured, or weren’t insured for the duration of the entire pregnancy,” Maryman says. “We recognize the benefits that come with access to insurance and how insurance can be a facilitator to access to health care, and the importance of health care in ensuring the healthy birth of an infant.”


KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.