May 18, 2017 01:36 PM EDT
Studies show that American Indian, Alaska Native, and African-American families face risks of sudden infant deaths. The risks have shot up in these ethnic groups compared to others since public health efforts were made to avoid "sudden infant death syndrome" in the 1990s.
Data shows that American Indians and Alaska Natives showed a rate of 177.6 unexplained sudden infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 (down from 237.5 per 100,000 in 1995). The rate was 172.4 for non-Hispanic blacks (down from 203), 84.5 for non-Hispanic whites (down from 93), 49.3 for Hispanics (down from 62.7) and 28.3 for Asians and Pacific Islanders (down from 59.3).
Reduced rates of sudden infant deaths have been noted only among non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and Asians/Pacific Islanders, according to NPR.
The trend includes sudden infant death syndrome and also accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed. But encouragingly, the rates suddenly reduced in five years following a national campaign that called for babies to be encouraged to sleep on their backs.
However, the rates of sudden infant deaths did not come down since 2000. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to find out whether the changes have been uniform through all racial and ethnic groups.
"We had the overall picture, but no one had really taken a close look at what was happening within that," says Sharyn Parks, an epidemiologist at the CDC and an author of the study, published in Pediatrics.
The study of sudden infant deaths did not control for socioeconomic or related causes, such as prenatal or postnatal consumption or exposure to drinking, smoking or different patterns of breastfeeding. Hence, there might be other factors apart from race and ethnicity, including differences in prenatal care, according to Parks.
Non-Hispanic black infants seemed to have shown a reduction in sudden infant death rates, but African-Americans are not as likely as other racial and ethnic groups to agree to safe sleeping recommendations. Hence, the improvement in the group might have been stoked by some other factors. It would help to examine many reasons that have led to survival, including better care for premature infants and a reduction in the rate of women below 20 years delivering babies.