Alabama's black infant mortality rate and the rate of teen births are now at their "lowest ever" points, according to data released Wednesday by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
ADPH says, however, persistent disparities in pregnancy outcomes by race continue. The 2013 infant mortality rate for black infants was 12.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Though that number is a record low for African Americans, it's still nearly twice the 6.6 rate for white infants for the same year.
Overall, the state's infant mortality rate for 2013 stands at 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 8.9 the previous year. In 2013, there were 58,182 live births, and the infant mortality rate represents the deaths of 500 of infants who did not reach their first birthday.
Health officials added that while black infant mortality rates have declined, there's been a 0.3 percent uptick in white infant mortality rates from 2012.
Another positive sign on the health front is the 2013 percentage of births to teenagers. The state says 9.3 percent (5,420 births) is the lowest rate ever recorded, and the percent of births to teens less than 18 years of age was also a record low, 2.6 percent (1,524 births).
ADPH says research indicates that babies born before 37 weeks of gestation face a higher risk of health problems. The percent of births at less than 37 weeks in Alabama has been trending down steadily to 11.8 percent of all live births in 2013 compared to 13.4 percent in 2005.
Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said, "Alabama hospitals and the medical community have worked diligently to decrease elective early term deliveries at 37 and 38 weeks gestation which helps produce better birth outcomes. Other factors that improve our infant mortality rate include increased levels of prenatal care and better family planning with the advent of long-acting reversible contraceptives."
"Alabama's infant mortality rate has trended downward since 2007," Gov. Robert Bentley said. "Lowering the rate is a critical part of our efforts to improve public health in Alabama. We are encouraged by today's news, and we will work to continue efforts to reduce infant mortality in Alabama."
ON THE WEB: ADPH graphs and detailed charts
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