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Alabama’s infant mortality rate increases in 2021

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Alabama’s infant mortality rate increased in 2021 to 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. The statistic represents 443 infants who died before their first birthday, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced this week.

The number is higher than 2020’s 7 deaths per 1,000 live births and more than the U.S. rate of 5.5.

Infant deaths, fetal deaths, live births and estimated pregnancies all increased in Alabama from 2020 to 2021, the ADPH said in a written statement.

Infant mortality rates in 2021 increased among black and white mothers and remained significantly higher for black mothers at 12.1. The infant mortality rate declined among Hispanic mothers to 5.2.

The 2021 statistics show:

  • Low-weight births decreased from 10.8 to 10.5, while births at less than 37 weeks of gestation increased;
  • Births with no prenatal care decreased from 2.6% to 2.2%. For births with no prenatal care, 52.5% were to white mothers, 52.4% were to mothers aged 20-29 and 74.7% were paid by Medicaid;
  • The overall number of births to teenagers continue to decline, but births to black teens increased slightly from 8.3 to 8.5;
  • The percentage of births with maternal smoking was 6.1 in 2021, the lowest percentage recorded.

“While there were several positive indicators of progress in 2021, decreasing infant mortality remains a significant challenge,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a written statement. “Infant mortality is closely related to social determinants of health, such as race, poverty and education. Alabama must continue our commitment and efforts to prevent infant deaths by promoting evidence-based initiatives such as home visiting nurses to first-time mothers and high-risk pregnancies, safe sleep education, and the ‘Count the Kicks’ campaign.”

The leading causes of infant death in 2021 were congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities, disorders caused by short gestations and low birth weights and sudden infant death syndrome.

The rates were highest in the rural Black Belt: Bullock County, 28.3; Lowndes, 22.1; Washington, 16.3. The counties with the most infant deaths were: Jefferson, 71; Mobile, 46; and Montgomery, 31.

More statistics from 2021 and previous years are available here.


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