California’s infant mortality rate has reached a record low, announced Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
In 2010, the most recent year data are available, the rate was 4.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009. Infant mortality is defined as the number of deaths in infants under one year of age.
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“Optimal infant health outcomes are influenced by a woman’s health even before she becomes pregnant, including avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs, maintaining a healthful weight, and taking folic acid supplements,” said Chapman. “Early entry into prenatal care, genetic testing to identify health risks at birth, breastfeeding, immunizations, and continuing proper nutrition through a baby’s developing years all contribute to improving infant health outcomes.”
African Americans in California experienced the largest decline in infant mortality, from 10.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 9.5 in 2010. While this is a significant improvement, racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality persist. African-American infant deaths occurred 2.3 times more frequently than Caucasian infant deaths in 2010. The infant mortality rate among Caucasians remained unchanged between 2009 and 2010 (4.1 deaths per 1,000 live births) and dropped from 5.0 to 4.9 among Hispanics.
Among the factors that may have contributed to the declining infant mortality rate is the decline in the percent of births born prematurely (less than 37 weeks’ gestation). The percent of births born prematurely in California declined from 10.4 percent in 2009 to 10.0 percent in 2010. Optimal health of women before pregnancy and during pregnancy is likely to contribute to fewer babies born prematurely and to better survival rates of babies overall.
California had the fourth-lowest infant mortality rate among all 50 states.