Newborn baby [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The mortality rate of fetuses after the 22nd week of gestation and babies up to a year after delivery is gradually declining but remains about 2.5 times higher in the Arab population than in the Jewish sector, according to a Health Ministry report released for publication on Thursday.
One reason for the gap, according to the study, is inbreeding of first cousins (consanguinity) in the Arab sector, which causes genetic disorders. Other contributing factors include many more Arab girls giving birth before the age of 20; exposure to high levels of smoking; high obesity rates among Arab women; and lower educational and health information levels in the Arab sector.
The report from the ministry’s mother and child department covered the years 2008 through 2011. During that period, 650,516 babies were born in Israel of which 490,771 were born to Jewish “and other” mothers and 159,745 to Arab mothers. No subsequent data was made available.
In 2011, of the 126,550 pregnancies of Jewish women, 330 infants died before or after birth, while of the 39,746 Arab babies, 254 died, indicating an infant mortality risk that is 250% higher for Arab families.
Over the four year period, the overall rate was 3.71 per 1,000 – 2.72 among Jews and 6.78 among Arabs.
The Jewish rate has declined steadily in recent decades, while that among Arabs has dropped since 2009, apparently from better education and health care and improved living conditions.
The rate of Arabs who give birth under the age of 20 is 8.97 per 1,000 live births – a figure almost three times that found among Jews. The lowest risk of infant mortality among Jews is when they give birth between the ages of 25 and 39, while among Arabs, it is between 25 and 29.
Prematurity was the most common cause of death in Jewish infants, but genetic and congenital disease were most significant among Arabs. Being born as part of a multiple birth, meanwhile, carries a 10 times higher risk for infant mortality than a child who is born alone.
Regionally, the report found the infant mortality rate to be 6.06 per 1,000 in the South (where many Beduin live), compared to 4.10 in the North (where many Arabs reside) and 3.89 in Jerusalem (where there also are large numbers of both Jews and Arabs), compared to 2.54 in the center and 2.62 in the Tel Aviv district.
Other significant causes of death were genetic disorders and defects, crib deaths, problems during delivery, infections, and malignant and chronic disorders.