Infant Death in St. Louis

We have a crisis in our region.

St. Louis is home to some of the best health care in the country. We’re one of the nation’s most renowned centers for medical research, education and practice, with several top-ranking hospitals.

Yet, there are neighborhoods in St. Louis with an infant mortality rate that is worse than some developing countries.

Despite the quality of many of our health care services, infant death in St. Louis is still above the national average. The impact of these deaths is substantial, especially in neighborhoods where families struggle to get access to the most basic of needs, like safe housing, food and health care.

And we have serious racial disparities when it comes to infant deaths in St. Louis – Black babies are three times as likely to die as white babies.

We know that, locally and globally, communities with strong infant health policies and practices are stronger and more successful from both a social and economic standpoint.

Dr. Will Ross, Washington University School of Medicine

Impact of Infant Deaths in St. Louis

High rates of infant death and preterm birth of Black babies born in St. Louis can be linked to some of the region’s greatest challenges – including systemic racism, poverty and economic hardship.

Every baby’s death is a loss for their family and for the entire community. Every year, the number of babies St. Louis loses could have made up 12 kindergarten classrooms – and Black infants would have made up 8 of those classrooms.

The medical costs of caring for a preterm infant are extremely high. Each year, premature birth costs Missouri taxpayers $180 million in immediate and short-term costs. Think of what our region could do with $180 million.

Being born too early can cause later health and development issues for babies over the course of their life. Premature babies are more likely to experience chronic health issues, intellectual and developmental disabilities.