Alaska study links infant mortality rates to lack of access to care

The Alaska Maternal and Infant Mortality Review and Child Death Review (MIMR-CDR) published its 2014 Annual Report which revealed Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID)/Asphyxia as the leading cause of infant death from 2008-2012. Of these deaths, the committee determined that 61% of cases were preventable and 10% could be linked to inadequate access to care.

The study defines inadequate access to care as cases where the mother has “received insufficient or no prenatal care or education” or situations where geographical distance prohibited timely access or contributed to misdiagnosis.

Infant mortality rates (IMR) were lowest overall in the Southeast region (2.8 per 1,000 live births) and highest in the Northern region (10.1 per 1,000 live births), according to the study. The study also found that IMR is highest in the Alaska Native population.

“Compared to the Anchorage/Mat-Su region, the Northern and Southwest regions had significantly higher postneonatal and neonatal IMRs,” wrote the MIMR-CDR committee.

AK infant mortality regions

Source: Alaska Maternal and Infant Mortality Review and Child Death Review 2014 Annual Report (fig. 5)

The challenge of access to care in the more remote locations of Alaska is well-reported. In addition, State of Reform recently covered the market withdrawal of Assurant health plan which leaves the state with two health plan options. In that report, Alaska Division of Insurance Director Lori Wing-Heier commented that Alaska’s small population and high health care costs are what make the market “difficult to maintain.”

The Committee categorized 61% of the deaths reviewed in the four year period as “preventable” or “possibly preventable.” The top recommendations were improvements to caregiver education and support, better medical provider information, and better access to alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs. Along with poor access to care, caregiver substance abuse was a notable contributing factor.

AK infant mortality recommendations

Source: Alaska Maternal and Infant Mortality Review and Child Death Review 2014 Annual Report (fig. 11)

The MIMR-CDR Review Committee is part of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). To view the full report, click here.