In 2006, 28,527 infants died before their first birthday, representing an infant mortality rate of 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. The leading cause of infant mortality was congenital anomalies, which accounted for 20 percent of deaths, followed by disorders related to short gestation, which accounted for another 17 percent of deaths.
The infant mortality rate began a substantial decline in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some factors in this early decline included economic growth, improved nutrition, new sanitary measures, and advances in knowledge about infant care. More recent advances in knowledge that contributed to a continued decline included the approval of synthetic surfactants and the recommendation that infants be placed on their backs to sleep. However, the decades-long decline in infant mortality began to level off in 2000, and the rate has remained relatively steady in the years since.
In 2006, the mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black infants was 13.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is two and one-half times the rate among non-Hispanic White and Hispanic infants (5.6 and 5.5 per 1,000, respectively). Although the infant mortality rates among both non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks have declined over the last century, the disparity between the two races remains largely unchanged.
The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and MCHB’s Healthy Start program provide health and support services to pregnant women and infants with the goal of improving children’s health outcomes and reducing infant and child mortality.