Infant mortality rate lowest ever in Alabama in ‘17

Published 1:25 am Friday, November 16, 2018

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Thursday that the infant mortality rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017 is the lowest in Alabama history and 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.

Five infants died before their first birthdays in Covington County in 2017, an infant mortality rate of 11.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to charts released by the health department.

While there is a longstanding disparity 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.

Teen births and smoking during pregnancy are risk factors that contribute to infant mortality, and both 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. Statisticians look at average infant mortality rates for three-year periods. 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.

“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.” 

Alabama has developed an infant mortality reduction plan that includes a pilot project to reduce infant mortality by 20 percent in five years.

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.