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Alabama's infant mortality remains above national levels

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Alabama’s 2020 infant mortality rate has tied its lowest results, set in 2018. Still, our state remained significantly above the national rate for babies dying before their first birthday. Overall, Alabama’s infant mortality rate was 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020. The national rate is 5.5 per 1,000 according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The 2020 numbers continued longstanding racial disparities.

The infant mortality rate in 2020 remained twice as high for Black infants, at 10.9, compared to 5.2 for white infants.

“The death of any infant is tragic. Alabama must continue our commitment to prevent infant deaths by promoting evidence-based initiatives to address this persistent need,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

State numbers also showed a disparity by access to private insurance, a reflection of economic status. Mothers who had private insurance accounted for 45% of all births and 26% of infant deaths. While mothers on Medicaid accounted for 50% of all births but 65% of infant deaths. The state numbers reflected 404 Alabama infants who died before reaching their first birthday.

State health officials said the top three causes of infant death were: disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight; congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities; and sudden infant death syndrome.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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