While researchers have not yet pinpointed a specific reason for the decline, a decrease in respiratory distress syndrome—which dropped 14 percent last year—may play a role.
According to Eugene R. Declercq, a health researcher at Boston University, the practice of scheduling C-sections early and inducing labor early was believed to have been a potential contributor to infant mortality, and there had been a push among doctors to stop inducing births or scheduling C-sections before 39 weeks of gestation unless there was a strong medical reason to do so. "There's been a conscious effort to change practices," he said. "It has been one of the success stories."
Despite the decline, however, experts said the numbers are still relatively high when compared to the rates calculated in other countries. "Its good news that the infant mortality rate dropped last year," Dr. Steven Woolf, director of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University told The New York Times, "but it's still much higher than the average of all the countries."