MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The infant mortality rate in 2017 is the lowest in Alabama history according to new data from the Alabama Department of Public health.
“Every one of these statistics represents a baby who died in its first year of life,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. "And that’s a tragedy for a mom, and for a family and for a community, and so that’s really what we’re trying to do is affect that number so that these babies can survive and live a normal life.”
In 2017, there were 102 more babies who survived than in 2016. The infant mortality rate in 2016 was 9.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2017 that rate was 7.4 deaths.
“Infant mortality is important to public health because it’s just a good measure of the overall health of a society," Harris said.
The top three reasons for infant mortality made up 43.4 percent of infant deaths in 2017:
- Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities
- Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight
- Sudden infant death syndrome
To see the full report click here
The department said the infant mortality rate for black infants declined to an all-time low in 2017. It dropped from a rate of 15.1 to 11.2 between 2016 and 2017.
Experts said the low infant mortality rate is in-part attributed to fewer low-weight births.
“The major factor that we identified is that African-American premature babies of extreme low-birth weight that is less than 1,000 grams survived at a much higher rate than we’d seen in the past,” Harris said.
Dr. Eli Brown is an OBGYN in Birmingham. He said mother’s taking care of themselves is one reason the rates are low.
“The key to a healthy pregnancy is the health of the mother before she even gets pregnant. That’s so key," said Brown. “So, looking at things like obesity. Taking care of high blood pressure. Treating diabetes, even before the woman gets pregnant is very key."
Another reason for lower infant mortality rates include fewer teen births.
“Typically, teenage moms are just not equipped to get the same prenatal care in many cases and just aren’t equipped necessarily in a social way to be able to take care of an infant once an infant’s born,” Harris said.
Brown believes long-term contraception have contributed to the dropping number of deaths.
“It’s implants," said Brown. "What we’re doing is actually taking the contraceptive device out of the patient’s hands and we’re planting it so that she doesn’t have to remember to take a pill every day or to put a patch on every week.”
Alabama’s current infant mortality rate at 7.4 is still higher than the most recent 2016 U.S. infant mortality rate, which sits at 5.9.
Alabama officials celebrate the news of a lower infant mortality rate, but want to continue to make sure more babies survive. Harris said they have educational outreach programs.
“We do a lot of education with hospitals on making sure that women who have high-risk pregnancies have access to the appropriate facility so they can deliver at a facility that is qualified to take care of high-risk deliveries,” he said.
Harris said a pilot project beginning Jan. 1 will include home visitation, screening for substance abuse, safe sleep education, and breastfeeding promotion for women who could have a high-risk delivery.