BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) — The Alabama Department of Health and Human Services released new data this week showing the state’s infant mortality rate for 2021, and it’s a slight increase from last year. The rate is 7.6 deaths per 1000 live births, an 8.6% increase from the 2020 rate of 7.0.
The state health commissioner, Dr. Scott Harris says bringing that rate down remains a major challenge.
Carolyn Miller, director of the ADPH State Perinatal Division, says while the rate has increased, she’s glad to see it hasn’t increased even further. She adds that ADPH remains concerned about the racial disparities in the report.
“Black babies are twice as likely to die as white babies,” she explained. “Infant mortality is twice as high.” The rate rose to 12.2 from 10.9 in 2020.
Miller says the state as a whole has a high infant mortality rate due to social determinants.
“We have people who don’t have access to care, especially pre-prenatal care,” Miller said. “Women come into pregnancy with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.”
One solution to reducing child mortality, Miller says, is to provide better access to health care. She says 38 counties have no hospitals offering reproductive health services.
“A good example is that Macon County has no utilities, no delivering hospitals, and 12% of the population has no transportation,” Miller said. “And how are they cared for?”
Of course, people are still looking for answers to this question.
“Alabama must continue our commitment and efforts to prevent infant deaths by promoting evidence-based initiatives such as home nurse visits to primiparae and high-risk pregnancies, safe sleep education, and the Count the Kicks campaign,” said state health official Dr. Scott Harris.
In a press release, ADPH lists other trends in the report:
1. Percentages of low weight births decreased from 10.8 to 10.5, while percentages of births less than 37 weeks gestation and births less than 2 years apart increased in 2021.
2. The proportion of births without prenatal care fell from 2.6 percent to 2.2 percent. 52.5 percent of births without prenatal care were paid for by white mothers, 52.4 percent by mothers ages 20 to 29, and 74.7 percent by Medicaid.
3. Total teenage births continue to decline; However, the percentage of births to black teenage mothers increased slightly in 2021 from 8.3 to 8.5.
4. The percentage of births where the mother smoked was 6.1 in 2021, the lowest percentage on record.
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