Infant mortality rates in Alabama continue to surpass the national average

The CDC reports an increase in infant deaths, and Alabama surpasses the national average, just as it has for years.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:56 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The CDC revealed the most recent finding when it comes to infant mortality rates earlier this month, which shows that Alabama still ranks in the top 3 highest infant mortality rates nationwide.

In the Wiregrass, Houston, Coffee, Pike, and Barbour counties all have infant mortality rates above the national average.

This is reflective of the entire state.

Dr. Wes Stubblefield is a medical officer with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). When discussing the trends in the state of Alabama, he said that the highest rates come from the more rural counties, including some in southeast Alabama.

“This is something that affects anyone in our state because everyone is at risk,” Stubblefield said about the importance of observing infant mortality rates.

This health crisis mostly affects one group according to ADPH data.

“If you look at white infants, it is 5.9 (deaths per 1000 live births), but for black infants it is 12.1, so it is almost double for black infants,” Stubblefield said when talking about the rates.

Multiple factors play a part in this disparity, including long-standing social inequities and lack of healthcare access.

Three leading causes of death were identified in the Alabama Perinatal Report for 2022- birth defects, preterm and low birth weights, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Two of these causes could be caught and monitored with regular visits to the doctor, which is not easy in rural areas.

By 2019, only 29% of rural hospitals provided services for pregnant women compared to 83% in the 1980s according to ADPH.

Losing obstetric care in rural areas affects both expecting mothers and the health providers left in those areas.

Expecting mothers from those areas now have to commute miles away from their homes to access the care that they need. For the remaining healthcare providers in rural areas, it can become burdensome to be the only place in an area with those services.

The ADPH affirmed that they are continuing their effort towards decreasing the infant mortality rate for the state with different programs like the Maternal Autopsy program.

“It is something that we as Alabamians need to pay attention to....” Stubblefield concluded on the health matter.

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