Alabama sees lowest-ever infant mortality rate in 2017

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, November 15, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor


The infant mortality rate in Alabama for the 2017 calendar year was the lowest in state history, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Statistics released by the organization this week show an average of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births last year, which was down from the 9.1 in 2016.

In 2017, 435 infants born across the state died before reaching 1 year of age. That is down from 537 the year prior.

“Due to the sharp decline in the infant mortality rate for 2017, the Alabama Center for Health Statistics worked diligently to ensure all infant deaths were reported,” Center Director Nicole Rushing said. “A decrease in the number of infant deaths reported was seen at almost all hospitals.”

The mortality rate of 11.2 per 1,000 live births for black infants in Alabama was at an all-time low in 2017, while the 5.5 rate for white infants was the second-lowest ever.

Those numbers are down from a rate of 15.1 for black infants and 6.5 for white infants in 2016.

“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,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Though there was a substantial drop in infant mortality rate, the percent of low-weight births and births that occurred prior to 37 weeks of gestation remained the same.
According to ADPH, there are other positive factors to be found in the 2017 statistics.

“Teen births and smoking during pregnancy are risk factors that contribute to infant mortality, and both are continuing to decline,” the organization said in a release. “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.”

“We must continue our efforts to reduce the number of families who experience the profound sadness of infant deaths. Alabama has developed an infant mortality reduction plan that includes a pilot project to reduce infant mortality by 20 percent in five years,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.
This pilot project is being conducted in Macon, Montgomery and Russell counties.

“Components of the pilot project include home visitation, preconception and interconception health care, screening for substance use, domestic violence and depression, safe sleep education and breastfeeding promotion,” according to the release.

The leading causes of infant death in 2017 were: congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities, disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

“These top causes of infant deaths parallel those for the U.S. as a whole in 2016,” according to the release.

Other graphs and information are available at the ADPH web address