Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Infant Mortality Rate Dropped in U.S. from 2005 to 2011

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Infant Mortality Rate Dropped in U.S. from 2005 to 2011

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON --

The nation's infant mortality rate fell by 12 percent from 2005 through 2011, a promising pattern that researchers say may be due in part to a decline in premature births.

The decline came after a period of stalled progress. Although the infant mortality rate dropped significantly over the 20th century, it remained static from 2000 to 2005, according to a report released in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By 2011, however, the rate had dropped to 6.05 deaths of babies less than 1 year old per 1,000 births, down from 6.87 in 2000. Some of the most striking improvements were in Southern states, which still have higher infant mortality rates than most of the country.

The rate of infant deaths declined the most among black mothers - - a drop of 16 percent from 2005 to 2011. Historically, infant mortality rates among black women have been more than twice those among white women.

"We are seeing a slight narrowing in the gap, and that's very encouraging," said Marian F. MacDorman, a senior statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and an author of the report. "But the gap is still really big."

The states with the steepest declines in infant deaths -- Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina -- have long been plagued with some of the nation's highest infant mortality rates, Ms. MacDorman added. In all four states the rate dropped by more than 20 percent from 2005 to 2010, the latest year for which state data are available. The District of Columbia, which has expanded a home-visit program for poor pregnant women and stepped up other efforts to keep mothers and their babies healthy, saw the biggest drop: from 14.05 deaths per 1,000 births in 2005 to 7.86 in 2010.

The states with the highest infant mortality rates are Mississippi and Alabama, according to the report, but even Mississippi saw its rate drop by 15 percent from 2005 to 2010.

Ms. MacDorman said the nation's rate of premature births -- babies born before 37 weeks of gestation -- peaked at 12.8 percent in 2006 and had dropped every year since then. That is a likely factor in the decline of the infant mortality rate, she said. In 2009, the latest year for which CDC data is available, two-thirds of all infant deaths in the United States were among preterm babies.

Another possible factor is a recent emphasis on preventing planned early deliveries. A growing number of hospitals are not allowing mothers to schedule births before 39 weeks without a medical reason. In 2011, the March of Dimes started a public education campaign, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait, to reduce medically unnecessary deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation. …

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