The California Department of Public health announced this week that infant mortality rates in the state have reached a record low. This decrease in infant death rates is attributed to prenatal care, genetic testing to identify health risks at birth, breastfeeding, childhood immunizations, and continuing proper nutrition.
“Optimal infant health outcomes are influenced by a woman’s health even before she becomes pregnant including avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking folic acid supplements,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH.
Infant mortality is defined as the number of deaths in infants under one year of age. The number is usually measured in infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The most recent state data available is from 2009, when the infant mortality rate was 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The highest rate in the last 20 years was in 1991, when there were 7.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
There were 12.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 10.6 in 2009. While this is a significant improvement, racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality persist, and African-American infant deaths in 2009 occurred 2.6 times more frequently than Caucasian infant deaths.
The multi-race category had the highest infant mortality rate (12.0), followed by African American (10.6), Pacific Islander (7.5), American Indian (5.5), Hispanic (5.0), Caucasian (4.1) and Asian (3.1).
Infant mortality rates may fluctuate from year to year, so data from additional years will be needed to determine whether this recent decrease indicates a long-term trend, reported the CDPH.