As overall infant mortality dropped to a record low, the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths, or SUIDs, remained stubbornly high in 2020, according to a study published in Pediatrics on Monday (March 13).
SUIDs is a broad classification that includes sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation, strangulation in bed, and other unknown causes.
In 2020, the SUID rate for white babies dropped to the lowest its been since 2017, but among Black babies, the rate was the highest its been since then.
Black infants already faced SUID rates that were two times higher than their white counterparts in 2017. Yet in 2020, the disparity grew to three times higher, according to the study.
The findings were particularly alarming as SUID rates have stayed consistent within each racial and ethnic group for decades. In 2020, Black infants surpassed American Indians as the racial and ethnic group with the highest SUID rates.
Sharyn Parks Brown, a co-author of the study, said researchers reanalyzed the data multiple times after finding the spike among Black babies.
“We would typically – ideally – look at five years of data in order to see any sort of trend emerging. So, these are very preliminary findings,” Parks Brown told CNN. “But this is something that we’re going to have to continue monitoring.”
In response to the research, physicians said the high rates of SUIDs “reflect our societal failures.”
Socioeconomic disparities “not only result in limited access to health care and education but also in many families not having a stable, safe place for their infants to sleep,” they wrote, per CNN.
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