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State infant mortality rate drops

The Alabama Department of Public Health announces that the infant mortality rate of 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018 is the lowest in Alabama history and is an improvement over the 2017 rate of 7.4 and the 2016 rate of 9.1. A total of 405 infants born in Alabama died before reaching 1 year of age in 2018; 435 infants died in 2017 and 537 infants died in 2016. Alabama’s overall rate remains higher than the U.S. 2018 provisional rate of 5.7.

The infant mortality rate for black infants declined to 11.0 in 2018, and the infant mortality rate for white infants decreased to 5.1. Nevertheless, a longstanding disparity between birth outcomes for black and white infants remains.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “While we are encouraged that the combined 2016-2018 infant mortality rate is below 8.0 for the first time, we must continue to address Alabama’s racial disparities in birth outcomes, increase access to prenatal care, and get women with opioid use disorder to treatment to reduce infant mortality.”

In 2018, a 37 percent decrease was noted in Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), a leading cause of infant deaths in Alabama. Increased efforts to address SUID through collaboration, education and outreach activities began in the summer of 2014 with the National Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality Safe Sleep Initiative. Efforts continue with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2015 – present), as well as collaboration with other agencies to include education to healthcare providers, hospitals, day care providers, parents, grandparents, community providers and social media outreach.

Disorders related to short gestation, births at less than 37 weeks gestation, low birth weights and births with no prenatal care slightly increased from 2017 to 2018.

Alabama continued to experience a decline in the percentage of births to teens (6.9) and the percentage of births to mothers who smoked (8.7).

Center for Health Statistics Director Nicole Rushing said, “The Alabama Center for Health Statistics worked diligently to ensure all infant deaths were reported. Thecontinuing decline in Alabama’s infant mortality is a start to closing the historically large gap between the state and national rates.”

The top four leading causes of infant deaths in 2018 were as follows:

  • Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities
  • Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Bacterial sepsis of newborn

These causes accounted for 50 percent of Alabama infant deaths.

Gov. Kay Ivey said, “I am committed to improving the health of mothers and babies, and I am glad to see the infant mortality rates in 2017 and 2018 have improved from the rates earlier in this decade.”

Graphs and detailed charts are available at the Alabama Department of Public Health website at http://alabamapublichealth.gov/healthstats/assets/IM_18.pdf