Infant deaths have declined by 15 percent in the U.S. over the last decade, but America still has a higher rate than other nations.
Big news, you guys: The infant mortality rate in the U.S. has just hit an historic low!
Infant mortality is considered a basic measure of public health for countries around the world, and America has traditionally not fared nearly as well as other nations. But now comes new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the U.S. infant mortality rate has fallen 15 percent in the past decade. It still puts us behind many other developed countries, but it's a good sign that things are changing.
Between 2005 and 2014, the U.S. infant mortality rate decreased from 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 5.82—a drop of 15 percent. And this decrease occurred across most racial and ethnic groups, as well as in 33 states and the District of Columbia. In fact, not a single state reported a statistically significant increase. And in some states—including South Carolina, Vermont, Connecticut, and Colorado—the infant mortality rate fell more than 20 percent. In D.C., it dropped nearly 50 percent!
"I think there was a public health push in the past decade to figure out ways to lower this rate, and it has made an impact," the report's co-author T.J. Matthews told CNN. "We know that there have been a lot of efforts across the country in cities and states where they're trying to figure out ways where they can lower the infant mortality rate." Things like not scheduling the birth of babies before 39 weeks and educating parents about safe-sleep practices for their babies to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
And in fact, cases of SIDS fell 29 percent over the last 10 years. Rates for three other of the five leading causes of infant death also went down: Congenital malformations, the primary cause of infant death, dropped 11 percent; deaths from short gestation and low birthweight dropped 8 percent; and deaths due to maternal complications fell 7 percent.
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And while nationally the infant mortality rate fell from 2005 to 2014 across most racial groups, the report shows the country continues to struggle with a large racial gap. In 2014, the infant mortality rate for the black population was 10.93 deaths per 1,000 births—more than twice as high as the 4.89 rate for whites or the 5.01 rate for Hispanics.