Florida spends millions to combat infant mortality, but deaths persist

Statistics show persistent crisis

Six out of every 1,000 babies born in Florida die before their first birthday. Florida spends more than $170 million on maternal and infant health but has seen no significant change in the rate in more than a decade. Black babies die during their first year of life more than 2.5 times as often as non-Hispanic white and Hispanic infants.

History of legislative investment

Decades ago, Florida lawmakers created programs to connect mothers with resources and study infant deaths. Florida has at least a dozen programs under the maternal and infant health umbrella, bolstered by $170 million in funding last year. The state set a goal to reduce the Black infant mortality rate by 2026.

A patchwork system

Health professionals say the state response has been insufficient and unevenly applied. They call for adjustments to insurance to expand prenatal care, more investment in communities with the poorest birth outcomes, and measuring results to better target resources. State officials say they are working to coordinate outreach and have launched a telehealth initiative to reach rural women.

Preliminary 2023 data shows decline, but experts skeptical

Health officials say Florida's Black infant mortality rate declined to 9.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2023, but experts say the figure excludes significant data from eight of Florida's 67 counties, including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, the state's two most populous.

Lawmakers eye further action

State lawmakers are considering legislation to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospital labor and delivery, allow cesarean sections at birthing centers, and ease restrictions on independent midwives. They also plan to push for a national law called The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which addresses maternal and infant health crisis factors and includes funding for diversifying the birth workforce.

What experts say

'What we have got is the continual spending of money in the same place, in the same cycles, doing the same research and coming up with the same solutions.'Jennie Joseph, national advocate for maternal health

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