A new study indicates there may be a link between food insecurity and higher infant mortality rates in North Carolina.

The study was conducted by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine. While the connection between hunger and infant mortality is a problem long associated with developing countries, researchers wanted to determine if it held true domestically.

After reviewing data from all 100 counties in North Carolina, scientists determined that the mean county-level infant mortality rate was about 36 percent higher than the rest of the country, while the average county-level of food insecurity was about 30 percent higher.

Researchers further crunched the numbers to determine that for each 10 percent decrease in food insecurity statewide, about 144 infants would be saved in a year.

Dr. Lisa Cassidy-Vu led the team researching the data. She says the results show that food insecurity needs to be addressed as a serious public health issue, and that infant mortality rates could be improved by simply ensuring that families have enough to eat.

Cassidy-Vu adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated resource disparities and increased rates of food insecurity, particularly in vulnerable populations.

The study has been published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

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