WASHINGTON, D.C. - Unexplained deaths among Black infants rose substantially during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is a leading cause of infant death in the United States, with infants born to Black families dying at higher rates of SUID than white infants. The rate of SIDS among Black infants increased by a staggering 15% in 2020, further exacerbating that disparity. Infants born to non-Hispanic Black families now experience SUID at rates 2.3 times higher than the general population and 2.8 times higher than white infants.
While the exact cause of the spike is unknown, experts say it is the result of decades of racial disparities and structural inequality experienced by Black communities.
The following statement is attributed to Dr. Jamila Taylor, National WIC Association (NWA) President & CEO:
“This study showcases an alarming trend–Black infants are now almost three times as likely as white infants to die from SUIDS. This is unacceptable and requires urgent attention and action.
“We must first acknowledge that this data presents a tragic, familiar narrative of broken systems that have historically harmed Black families. These disparities are complex, intersectional, and include disproportionate poverty levels and a lack of access to healthcare like prenatal care, breastfeeding support and safe-sleep education.
“Breastfeeding support in particular is a critical opportunity to reduce risk and address these numbers head-on. However, to successfully breastfeed, families need access to resources and support. This includes everything from breast pumps and lactation assistance to safe environments that allow parents to pump and feed at home and work.
“Let me be clear. The rise in infant deaths is not a failure of individual families or parents. It is a systemic failure to value and protect Black lives. As a country, it is our responsibility to come together and address the root causes of health inequities and ensure that all families can access the resources and support they need to live and thrive.
“WIC staff and clinicians work daily to address these issues by providing healthy food, nutritional education and breastfeeding support to families in need. But their work cannot be fully realized until policies are in place to ensure numbers like these are no longer a reality. NWA is committed to working with policymakers to advance solutions, including enhanced funding, that ensure all families regardless of race or socioeconomic status have the support they need to make informed decisions about their infant's health and to end preventable deaths.”
The National WIC Association (NWA) is the nonprofit membership organization for State and local providers of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). NWA is the go-to voice of and for WIC staff at more than 12,000 WIC locations across the country who work to support more than 6.3 million mothers and young children. For over three decades, NWA has worked to build broad, bipartisan consensus for WIC’s programmatic goals and public health mission. NWA provides member-driven advocacy; education, guidance, and support to WIC staff; and drive innovation to strengthen WIC as we work toward a nation of healthier women, children, and their families. Learn more at www.nwica.org.