Alabama Infant Mortality Rate Drops to the Lowest Level in State History
The Alabama Dept. of Public Health has announced that the state infant mortality rate has fallen to the lowest level in history. Alabama News Network was at the State Public Health Committee meeting this morning in Montgomery when the announcement was made.
The 2017 rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births is an improvement over the 2016 rate of 9.1. A total of 435 infants born in Alabama died before reaching 1 year of age in 2017; 537 infants died in 2016.
While state health officials say there is still a big difference between birth outcomes for black and white infants, the infant mortality rate for black infants declined to an all-time low in 2017, and the infant mortality rate for white infants was the second lowest. The rate of 11.2 for black infants was an improvement over the 15.1 rate in 2016, and the rate of 5.5 for white infants was a drop over the 6.5 rate for whites in 2016.
State health officials say there have been many positive developments. Teen births and smoking during pregnancy are continuing to decline. The percentage of births to teens (7.3) and the percentage of births to mothers who smoked (9.6) are the lowest ever recorded in Alabama, with the largest decrease among teen mothers. There was also a decline in the number of infants born weighing less than 1,000 grams and infant deaths to those small infants.
While there was a significant decline in infant mortality, the percent of low weight births and births at less than 37 weeks gestation remained the same, according to the new statistics. Between the years 2015 through 2017, the combined rate of 8.3 was tied with the years 2009 through 2011 as the two lowest three-year rates of infant mortality in Alabama.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “We are encouraged with the progress in improved pregnancy outcomes we are seeing, but many challenges remain such as addressing persistent racial disparities, the opioid epidemic and ensuring access to healthcare.”
Components of the pilot project being conducted in Macon, Montgomery and Russell counties include home visitation, preconception and interconception health care, screening for substance use, domestic violence and depression, safe sleep education, and breastfeeding promotion.
The top three leading causes of infant deaths in 2017 that accounted for 43.4 percent of infant deaths were as follows:
· Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities
· Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight
· Sudden infant death syndrome
These top causes of infant deaths parallel those for the U.S. as a whole in 2016.
(Information from Alabama Dept. of Public Health)