LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is raising concerns about the mortality rate for African-American babies.

The report found that the overall infant mortality rate of 5.9 per 1,000 live births in 2016 was unchanged from the year before and in line with the national average. But the death rate for African-American babies was 15.2 per 1,000 live births, which was nearly three times higher than the mortality rate for White or Hispanic infants, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

KDHE spokesman Jerry Kratochvil said the agency is unable to explain the disparity, but it is consistent with national patterns.

“It’s not just a Kansas phenomenon,” he said. “But it is something that we identify and that we’re working towards reducing and one day eliminating.”

The report, which covered the five-year period from 2012 through 2016, found that the leading causes of infant death in Kansas were congenital anomalies such as heart disease, Down syndrome and spina bifida.

Other leading causes of death included prematurity and low birth weight, accidental death or unexplained causes such as sudden infant death syndrome, and maternal factors such as complications during pregnancy or delivery.

The report found a correlation between infant mortality and the social and economic status of the mother. Medicaid was the source of payment for 32.4 percent of live births during the five-year period, but that group accounted for 44.5 percent of the infant deaths.

Women who reported that they smoked during pregnancy accounted for only 11.9 percent of all live births, but 21.1 percent of infant deaths.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World,