Health

African-American Infant Mortality Lowest Ever

baby smiling Image Credit: PhotoSpin

Fewer babies are dying in San Diego County.

In 2010—the most recent data available—the rate of infant deaths in the region was 4.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births, meeting the Healthy People 2010 national target. The same data show that the mortality rate for African American infants was 7.7, the lowest ever. Infant mortality refers to the number of babies who die before they reach their first year of age.

“This is great news,” said Chairman Ron Roberts, County Board of Supervisors. “The County is committed to improving the health of local residents. Infants are among our most vulnerable populations and we must continue to keep driving down mortality rates.”

The County has been actively promoting healthy living as part of its Live Well, San Diego! initiative, a 10-year plan to improve the health and well-being of local residents. Established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy People provides 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.

Progress has been made in preventing infant deaths for the last 10 years. The county rate began going down in 2000 and has consistently been lower than the state rate, which was 4.7 for every 1,000 births in 2010. 

Although the overall infant death rate and the rates for most of the different population groups in San Diego County have declined in the past 10 years, the death rate in African-American babies continues to trouble local health officials. This rate is nearly double that of other groups.  In 2010, Asians had the lowest infant mortality rate of 2.5, followed by whites and Hispanics with a rate of 4.6 each.

In recent years, there has been good news on this front. The infant mortality rate for African Americans reached a single digit for the first time in the county in 2006 when 8.7 deaths were reported for every 1,000 live births. The reduction was due in part to the County’s Black Infant Health (BIH) program which offers services to pregnant African-American women and new moms with infants up to 3 months of age. 

Since 2006, the rate of infant mortality among African-American infants has varied between a high of 12.4 and the new record low of 7.7 in 2010.

Prenatal care, breastfeeding, immunizations, and proper nutrition during the first years of life help improve healthy outcomes for babies.

“While the rate of death among African-American babies has declined over the past decade, it continues to be high compared to other ethnic groups,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., Public Health Officer for the County. “We’ll continue to monitor closely to determine if this trend holds. However, these data are a promising indication that this health disparity among different groups is narrowing in the county. Our goal is to eliminate this disparity for infant mortality, which is noted as a ‘winnable public health battle’ by the CDC.”

For more information about the BIH program or to enroll, call (619) 266-7466. For more information on infant mortality statistics in San Diego County, click here.  

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact