Alabama infant mortality rate lowest ever in state

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2010

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s infant mortality rate, while still among the highest in the nation, has dropped to its lowest level in more than a century of record-keeping, state health officials announced Wednesday.

The rate for 2009 — 8.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — was down from 9.5 in 2008 and 10 in 2007, a drop health officials attributed to continued efforts to discourage teenage pregnancies and tobacco use.

Dr. Donald Williamson, the state health officer, said the department worked hard to discourage teen pregnancies and avoid tobacco use and worked closely with Medicaid to make sure at-risk women got early help when pregnant. Teen pregnancies and smoking during pregnancy contribute to low weight births, which have a far higher death rate than normal weight births.

Alabama’s infant mortality rate for 2007 was the second-highest in the country. Williamson said national rates for 2009 are not yet available but he hopes the state’s 2009 rate will be in the bottom 10 and not in the bottom five.

“Alabamians should be proud of the efforts made to address our traditionally high infant mortality rates,” he said.

The mortality rate of black infants was 13.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest it has ever been and close to the national average of 13.4 percent in 2006, Williamson said. But it remained much higher than the mortality rate for white infants, 6.2, which is also its lowest level since records began being kept in 1908.

The impact of the economic recession was evident in the numbers, with total births in Alabama declining from 64,435 in 2008 to 62,476 in 2009 as many families apparently decided against adding a new mouth to feed. The number of infant deaths in 2009 was 513, down from 612 in 2008.

Online: Alabama infant mortality information at