Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its 42nd report on the country’s health status, Health, United States, 2018. The new report indicates progress in infant mortality and teen pregnancy rates but still highlights differences within subpopulations.

While infant mortality was down by 14 percent between 2017 and 2007, the differences between populations continue to stand out. Infant mortality rates for non-Hispanic black women was 170 percent higher than mortality rates for the group with the lowest infant mortality rates, non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander women. Black infant mortality was 10.88 per 1000 live births versus 4.03 per 1000 live births for non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander women. Overall, infant mortality rates were 5.79 per 1000 births.

Infant mortality, the death of a baby before his or her first birthday, has been a long-time health indicator both here and across the globe. The CDC annual report includes trends and information on selected measures of morbidity, mortality, health care utilization and access, health risk factors, prevention, health insurance, and personal health care expenditures.

From 2007 to 2011, the infant mortality rate decreased by an average of 2.9% per year, then reduced by an average of 0.6% per year to 5.79 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017. In 2017, fifty-five percent of infant deaths were attributed to five leading causes: congenital malformations, preterm births and low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), maternal complications of pregnancy, and unintentional injuries (accidents).

Despite decreases from 2007 to 2017, infants of non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native women consistently had the highest rate of mortality. The report also indicates that there are differences in geographic and socio-economic factors.

Regarding teen births to women less than twenty years old, the country continues to see a decline. In 2017, a total of 194,377 babies were born to teens aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000 teens, down from 41.5 live births per 1,000 teens in 2007. Birth rates decreased by an average of 4.9% per year from 2007 to 2009 and then decreased more rapidly by an average of 8.4% per year from 2009 to 2017.

Birth rates decreased for all teen populations measured, but there are still significant differences. Rates among non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black teens aged 15–19 were stable from 2007 to 2009. From 2009 to 2017, rates decreased by an average of 7.8% per year to 13.4 live births per 1,000 for non-Hispanic white teens, while rates decreased by an average of 9.0% per year to 27.6 live births for non-Hispanic black teens. For Hispanic teens, the birth rate dropped by an average of 9.3% per year from 2007 to 2017, from 75.3 to 28.9 per 1,000 teens. For non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native teens, the birth rate decreased by an average of 7.3% per year from 2007 to 2017, from 66.3 to 32.2 per 1,000 teens.

Last month Congressman Danny Davis introduced HR 4768, the Home Visiting to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Act. The legislation will increase funding for the home visiting program, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Home visiting programs can have a significant impact on both areas of health. The Davis bill will increase funding from the current $400 million in mandatory funding to $600 million in 2021 to $800 million in 2022, doubling current funding over that time.

MIECHV provides states with approximately $400 million per year to fund several evidence-based home visiting models that target expectant mothers and mothers with young children depending on the home visiting model.