In the past two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released concerning data, painting a bleak picture for newborns in the United States. First, statistics from 2022 revealed a troubling increase in the infant death rate, breaking a 20-year trend of improvement. Following that, a report on Tuesday disclosed a tenfold rise in congenital syphilis rates over the last decade.
A common thread in these alarming trends is the deteriorating accessibility of healthcare for mothers and infants in the US. The obstacles faced by mothers in accessing healthcare have become increasingly insurmountable, with potentially dire consequences for American children. Experts worry that these challenges might escalate further due to financial, political, and social pressures, leading healthcare providers away from areas where their services are needed the most.
The surge in congenital syphilis and infant mortality represents setbacks after years of progress. Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, can be transmitted from parents to babies in the womb, leading to severe complications. Despite being curable with penicillin in its early stages, congenital syphilis has seen a significant resurgence. In 2022, over 3,700 cases were reported—a staggering 1,000 percent increase from 2012.
Similarly, infant mortality rates, which had been steadily decreasing for three decades, took a troubling turn in 2022. The age group witnessed a 3 percent increase in the death rate, with bacterial bloodstream infections and maternal complications of pregnancy identified as notable rising threats.
These concerning trends are not uniform across the US. Disparities exist, with babies born to Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native mothers being up to eight times more likely to experience congenital syphilis. In terms of infant mortality, Black newborns had the highest death rate, approximately twice the average rate, with American Indian babies experiencing a significant 20 percent rise in deaths. Certain states, notably Georgia, Iowa, Texas, and Missouri, witnessed a pronounced uptick in infant deaths, highlighting the uneven distribution of these alarming statistics.