The health climate for women and children in Maryland has improved despite significant challenges, including troubling infant mortality numbers, a new study from United Health Foundation found.
Maryland ranked 16th in health for the health of women and children in the foundation’s biennial report, up from 2016 when the state ranked 23rd.
The report looked at 62 health factors, including community and environment, clinical care, behaviors and health policies.
“Promoting the health of women, infants and children is fundamental to keeping our communities and nation healthy — both today and for future generations,” the report said. “Community leaders, public health officials and policymakers can help build better communities by understanding the health of women during their reproductive years, infants and children.”
The report highlighted several areas of concern for Maryland, especially for infant health, where it ranked 37th nationally. The state missed national average marks for infant mortality, preterm birth and birth weight, where the state ranked 32nd, 33rd and 35th, respectively.
Some of these outcomes can be traced to community factors.
For example, while the state ranks 32nd for infant mortality, with 6.5 deaths before age 1 per live birth, it ranks 8th for mortality among white infants. The black infant mortality rate is more than double the white infant mortality rate, 10.6 to 4.3.
Those numbers can be extended to maternal mortality rates as well, where Maryland ranks 35th in the country.
Maryland registered 17.6 deaths per 100,000 births for white mothers. Among black mothers, there were 40.5 deaths per 100,000 births.
The state also faced challenges due to the number of women dying from drug abuse.
The state saw a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of women dying from drugs since the 2016 report, with 18 deaths per 100,000 women between the ages of 18 and 45. The increase comes as Maryland continues to face strong headwinds in combating an opioid epidemic.
But while these drug deaths continued to rise, there was good news. Adolescents in Maryland had a low prevalence of substance dependence or abuse.
Just 4 percent of Maryland adolescents had a substance use disorder, including alcohol and drug use. Maryland had the seventh-best percentage in the country.
Maryland also does a good job of providing access to health care, the report found.
More than 73 percent of women between the ages of 18 to 44 made a preventive medical visit last year, good for 6th in the country.