Alabama’s infant mortality rate in 2016 was the highest it’s been since 2008 according to new figures from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
State health officials announced on Friday that the infant mortality rate was 9.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. In other words, nine of every 1,000 infants died in their first year of life.
“Our infant mortality rate is troubling and disheartening and trending in the wrong direction,” said acting state health officer Dr. Scott Harris. “Challenges include ensuring mothers have access to healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy, reducing premature births, the opioid epidemic, and addressing persistent racial disparities.”
For reasons not fully understood, disparities in infant mortality by race continue to persist in the Yellowhammer State. One major predictor of a woman’s likelihood of delivering a baby preterm is her race. The infant mortality rate for black infants was more than twice that of white infants. The 2016 black infant mortality rate was 15.1 per 1,000, a slight decrease from the 2015 infant mortality rate of 15.3.
The top three leading causes of infant death are congenital malformation, premature births, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The state does have strategies they plan to implement to reduce those the infant mortality rate in the future, including:
- Increase the use of progesterone to women with a history of prior preterm birth.
- Reduce tobacco use among women of childbearing age.
- Encourage women to wait at least 18 months between giving birth and becoming pregnant again.
- Expand the Well Woman Preventive visit to provide pre-conception and interconception care.
- Continue safe sleep education efforts.
- Continue collaborative efforts to address the opioid epidemic.
- Expand the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review activities at the community level.
According to the ADPH, the state additionally plans to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Committee to analyze the maternal deaths that occur within the state so as to improve maternal health outcomes.