With the knowledge, medical advances, and technology that we currently have, you may believe that the rate of infant mortality is not a major concern in the United States. Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday and the infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. At the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1,000 live births, approximately 100 infants died before age 1. This rate declined to 7.2 from 1900 through 1997. It has certainly improved through the years thanks to the improvement of sanitation and hygiene practices, public health education, access to health care, the discovery of antibiotics, and federally funded programs. Throughout the 20th century, public health, social welfare and clinical medicine collaborated to combat infant mortality. They accomplished this through education on the importance of medical and nutritional care during pregnancy, public health awareness of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and vaccine-preventable diseases.
The overall infant mortality rates have declined in recent years but is still a concern we must address. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, which calculates to over 23,000 infant deaths. In 2016, the infant mortality rate in the state of Florida was 6.1, which is slightly higher than the national average. The five leading causes of infant death in 2016 were birth defects, preterm birth and low birth rate, SIDS, maternal pregnancy complications, and injuries.
Birth defects are structural changes present at birth in almost any part or parts of the body and affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. Birth defects can occur at any stage of pregnancy but usually occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy. To learn more about birth defects, causes and preventions, visit CDC Birth Defects.
Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born too early have higher rates of death and disability. Racial and ethnic disparities exist for preterm and low birth rate that include Hispanic, Native American and black infants. SIDS or SUID (sudden unexpected infant death) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1-year-old and often occurs during sleep or in the baby’s sleep area. For recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment, American Academy of Pediatrics offers information and tips.
Pregnancy complications can be mild or severe and range from anemia to high blood pressure and infections. Some of these complications can involve the mother’s health, the baby’s health, or both. Infant injuries can occur and prevention education is important.
There are things we can do to lower rates of infant mortality. Organizations in our area provide programs and services to expecting mothers and children. They play an important role in the care that mothers and children need during pregnancy and the first few years of a child’s life. Florida’s Healthy Start program assists in obtaining the health care and social support needed to reduce the risks for poor maternal and child health outcomes. If any needs are identified, Healthy Start provides information, education, and referrals to services. These health services are provided in all of Florida’s 67 counties. The toll-free Family Health Line 1-800-451-BABY provides statewide information and referral to the general public as a way of increasing access to prenatal and infant care.
You can also advocate and raise awareness about infant mortality by supporting the National Healthy Start Association and their efforts to reduce the number of babies that do not live to see their 1st birthday!
Additional Information and Resources:
MMWR Weekly (1999, October 01) Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Healthier Mothers and Babies. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm
Centers for Disease Control (2018, August 03) Infant Mortality. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/MaternalInfantHealth/InfantMortality.htm
About the Author: Brooke Frye
|Brooke Frye is currently an intern at SRAHEC with a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Education. She will graduate from the University of Florida in December 2018.|