The infant mortality rate in the United States declined 12 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to new research released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.
The latest data puts the national rate at 6.05 deaths of babies less than 1 year old per 1,000 births, as compared to 6.87 deaths in 2000.
Clinical professor of pediatrics Carol Miller cites these new statistics as a victory.
“We should feel pretty proud about this, because it takes a lot to change population statistics,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’ve been struggling with this issue for quite some time.”
The largest improvements occurred in the South, a geographic area where the infant mortality rate is still above the national average in many states. According to the CDC’s report, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia all saw a decline of 20% or more in their infant mortality rates between 2005 and 2010, the last year for which state data is available. No state in the U.S. saw a statistically significant rate increase during this time period.
Rates also decreased more dramatically for non-Hispanic black women than non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women. Previously, rates among African Americans had been nearly double those for white women.
“We are seeing a slight narrowing in the gap, and that’s very encouraging,” Marian F. MacDorman, a senior statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and an author of the report told the New York Times. “But the gap is still really big.”
Researchers name a decrease in premature births and a decline in planned early deliveries as two possible factors in the dip of the infant mortality rate.
The leading causes of death for infants in America include congenital malformations, short gestation/low birthweight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), maternal complications, and unintentional injury. All causes except injury saw significant decreases over the course of the 5 years evaluated. The study saw no significant change in the rate of infant deaths caused by unintentional injury.
In 2008 the United States was ranked 27th globally in terms of infant mortality rate by the Organization for Economic Cooperative Development. Despite improvements from 2008 to 2011, the CDC predicts that the U.S. still ranks 27th in the world.