Federal funding for state- and local-level assistance programs significantly reduced infant, neonatal and postneonatal mortality in all 50 states, according to research published in BMJ Open.
Michael McLaughlin, a doctoral student, and Mark R. Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School at Washington University, St. Louis, wrote that this funding supports programs like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
“The federal government allocates hundreds of billions of dollars annually to state and local governments to help fund programs intended to improve the well-being of the overall population and specifically the health and well-being of low-income infants and pregnant women,” the researchers wrote. “Improving the health of pregnant women is important because prematurity and low birth weight are among the strongest predictors of infant mortality, and lower socioeconomic status — particularly poverty — is strongly linked to these conditions.”
Between 1929 and 2009, the amount of funding provided to these programs rose from approximately 1% to 28% — an amount that equates to roughly $600 billion for state and local governments every year.
McLaughlin and Rank assessed how federal funding to each of the 50 states affected state-level infant mortality rates between 2004 and 2013 by examining mortalities among children aged younger than 1 year during the study period.
Once the researchers controlled for unique demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of each state, they found that increases in federal funding were associated with significantly lower rates of infant, neonatal and postneonatal mortality rates. Specifically, increasing a state’s per capita federal funding by $200 could save one infant’s life for every 10,000 live births.
When the researchers further analyzed the effects of federal funding on infant mortality by race, increased funding was linked to lower neonatal mortality for both white and black infants. However, black infants’ outcomes were particularly affected by this funding, they said.
Monetary support has previously been directly linked to an increased likelihood of neonatal survival, with U.S. funding toward the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief decreasing infant mortality by more than 10%.
“Our findings indicate that increases in federal transfers are strongly associated with reductions in infant mortality rates,” Rank said in a press release. “Such benefits should be carefully considered when state officials are deciding whether to accept or reject federal funds.” – by Katherine Bortz
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.