While comparatively higher than many other countries in the region, the infant mortality rate in The Bahamas decreased in 2016, according to statistics obtained by The Nassau Guardian on the infant mortality rate.
According to the ‘Bahamas Core Data Report 2018’ updated by the Ministry of Health Information and Research Unit, the infant mortality rate stood at 16 in 2016.
That year, 70 babies died, the report shows.
In 2015, the infant mortality rate was 19.9 with 94 baby deaths.
The rate of infant mortality for 2016 is the lowest rate recorded in The Bahamas since 1994.
The lowest infant mortality rate in The Bahamas in recent times was 12.7 in 2001.
In contrast, the highest rate recorded was 22.7 in 2013.
The infant mortality rate is an important marker of the overall health of a society. It is the number of infants deaths compared to the number of live births in a given year.
In 2016, there were 4,363 lives births; in 2015, there were 4,704 live births, according to the report.
Yesterday, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said The Bahamas has significantly improved its position, but when considering the rates of other countries in the region and the world there is “tremendous” work to be done.
“It speaks to the impact of concentrated efforts at the public health level, at the maternal and child heath levels, as well as the neonatal intensive care unit teams,” the minister said.
“The infant mortality rate reflects the cumulative impact of both prevention – meaning improvement of antenatal care – but also treatment on the other side.
“This is reflective of improvements in vertical transmission of HIV, which while not zero is almost zero.
“This is reflective of improvements [in] access of our women to prenatal care, improved delivery services, etc.
“We still have work to do, however, because an infant mortality rate of 16 is nothing to be proud of relative to the performance of other systems in the world.
“When you look at infant mortality rates around the world and you compare the performance of countries like Australia with an infant mortality rate of 3.7; Germany, 3.8; Japan 2.7; the United States, 6.; the United Kingdom, 4.3 – you realize that we can do better.”
The rate in The Bahamas jumped from the 12.7 in 2001 to 16.7 in 2002.
In 2003, it was 17.2; in 2004, it was 17.3; in 2005, it was 19.6; in 2006, it was 18.1 and in 2007, it was 17.6.
In 2008, it stood at 17.9 and by 2009 it rose to 21.1.
The rate for 2017 is not yet available.
“We want to shift the balance of that improvement [in the infant mortality rate] away from neonatal care services and more to antenatal care; excellent care of the pregnant women [so] that she gets early care from a compassionate, capable, competent provider, [who has] identified whether she is high risk, low risk or otherwise and that we are able to provide her with state-of-the-art management of her pregnancy, inclusive of the sensitive delivery experience,” he said.
Sands pointed out that capacity is one of the challenges of the public sector.
He said the government is exploring means of addressing the discrepancy in patient experience between the public and private sector.
One such example is the ability of partners and/or family to be present in the operating room at a private facility compared to the public sector where “this does not happen for the most part”, Sands said.
The government is preparing to build a new child health and maternity wing at Princess Margaret Hospital, though the exact timeline is not clear.
The infant mortality rate in the Barbados stands at around 10; Cayman Islands, as low as 6; Haiti, 46-48, and Jamaica 12-13, Sands pointed out.