In September 2016, the Kansas reported that the infant mortality rate decreased for the second consecutive year. The total number of infant deaths totaled 223, representing a one-year infant mortality rate of 5.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Although the overall Kansas rate is lower than the Healthy People 2020 target, data shows significant disparities by race.
The Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) is a formalized method for gathering qualitative information about individual cases of infant and fetal death. By reviewing the data and conducting case reviews, stakeholders – including policymakers – can identify policies and direct resources to programs that support maternal and infant health and address the inequities that exist.
On October 18-19, 2017, the Kansas Health Foundation hosted a FIMR conference on race and infant mortality focusing on “Improving Health for ALL Kansas Mothers and Babies.” Nationally recognized experts led discussions about infant mortality rates – especially among Kansas children of color – and stakeholders discussed institutional challenges and policy options to improve birth outcomes.
- Participants engaged in conversations about:
- racial disparities and health equity,
- the impact of institutional racism on the overall health of a mother and child, and
- local organizations are working collaboratively to improve birth outcome disparities (case studies).
Learn more about the keynote presenters and to access all conference presentations.
The Kansas Healthy People 2020 target 2020 target is 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
What is the Infant and Mortality Rate and Why Does it Matter?
One of the basic indicators of the health of a community or state is infant mortality, the death of an infant before one year of age. While the Infant and Mortality Rate (IMR) is not a true measure of population health, it does serve as one proxy indicator of population health since it reflects the apparent association between the causes of infant mortality and other factors that are likely to influence the health status of the whole population such as economic development, general living conditions, social wellbeing where basic needs are met, and quality of the environment.
It is an internationally recognized measure of a society’s ability care for its citizens, including, but not limited to providing food, housing and health care for its most vulnerable citizens.
“Infant mortality is a community mirror, reflecting our collective capacity to promote and protect the health and well-being of our very youngest and most vulnerable.” – City Lights, 9:2, p1. Dr. Cheryl Lauber
Although the overall rates have dropped, the infant mortality rate for Black, non-Hispanic continues to be disproportionately high, with the rate of mortality rate being 15.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This represents an increase over the past two years, where the mortality rate for Black non-Hispanic infants was the lowest it has been in the past decade.
This rate is three times higher than the infant mortality rates for White, non-Hispanic (5.2) and Hispanic (5.1) populations.
Policy Matters: Access to Services Impacts Infant Mortality Rates
There are many factors that impact infant mortality rates, many being social determinants such as race, poverty, education levels and access to affordable, high quality health care (either through private insurance or safety net programs).
Infant deaths in Kansas are primarily due to perinatal conditions, many related to prematurity, that could be addressed by increasing access to health services and other related programs.
Access to prenatal care, postnatal care and basic health services make a difference. Early access to prenatal care can positively impact the overall health and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. Identification and treatment of medical conditions that can affect pregnancy (e.g., diabetes or high blood pressure) are vital to reducing the infant mortality rate and preventing birth defects.
Equally important is follow-up medical care for both the mother and infant child. This is critical to identifying adverse medical conditions ranging from post-partum depression to chronic disease and illness. Early access to high quality health care and support services also help reduce the long-term health care costs associated with diseases and medical conditions that are left undiagnosed.
However, there are other programs and policy goals that also positively impact the health and well-being of mothers and children, including:
- Home visiting programs that help improve child and maternal health, especially in high need and at-risk communities. These programs help families identify and access resources that support healthy outcomes.
- Healthy and sustainable food initiatives that ensure that mothers and infants have access to affordable, nutritious foods. Poor nutrition contributes to low-birth weight and other, related, medical complications for both the mother and child.
 Infant Mortality by Year by Selected Population Groups, Kansas 2001-2016. Presentation by Greg Crawford, KDHE on Race and Infant Mortality. October 18, 2017. Available online http://webs.wichita.edu/depttools/depttoolsmemberfiles/conferences/2017%20FIMR/FIMR_Conf_Presentation_Final.pdf
Additional Resources: KDHE Infant Mortality Rates by Population Group Kansas, 1997-2016. Available online at http://www.kdheks.gov/phi/AS_Tables/AS_2016_Tables_and_Figures/fetal/2016InfantMortalityResearchBrief.pdf