Faculty, Ph.D. student quoted in BDN report on infant deaths in Maine

University of Maine professors Marie Hayes and Craig Mason, along with Ph.D. student Jake Emerson, were quoted in a Bangor Daily News report about the increase of infant deaths in Maine. While the nation’s infant mortality rate is worse than many wealthy countries, it has improved since the 1990s. Meanwhile, Maine’s rate has fallen behind the nation’s and it’s not clear why, according to the article. Emerson, a BDN data scientist and computing and information science student, analyzed data and found the increase in Maine’s infant mortality rate is genuine. “Maine is really different from all the rest of the states, and there’s not a really good reason for why,” he said. Substance use, home births, access to prenatal care and obesity are all potential factors for infant deaths, the article states, and low income can exacerbate underlying risk factors. “Poverty causes people to have such a high level of stress. Domestic instability or violence, irregular access to nutritious food, the stress of not being able to go to the doctor’s as much as you want all lead to infant mortality,” said Hayes, who researches opiate-exposed infants. A rising infant mortality rate is concerning and warrants study, said Mason, a professor of education and applied quantitative methods. “It can be challenging work because it’s a sensitive issue for parents, understandably, and we need to respect people’s privacy. At the same time, if the infant mortality rate is increasing in Maine, it’s a significant public health concern that needs to be addressed,” said Mason, who also holds a contract with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study newborn health and development.