In 2007, 29,138 infants died before their first birthday, representing an infant mortality rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births; this is essentially unchanged from the previous year. The leading cause of infant mortality was congenital malformations, which accounted for approximately 20 percent of deaths, followed by disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, which accounted for almost 17 percent of deaths (data not shown).
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.
In 2007, the mortality rate among infants born to non-Hispanic Black women was 13.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is nearly two and one-half times the rate among infants born to non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women (5.6 and 5.7 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 Health 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.