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Infant mortality rate drops 15 percent

Collaborative efforts to reduce rate showing promise

As the leader of a multi-year, national initiative to reduce infant mortality rates and disparities across populations, The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality  (NICHQ) is heartened by the announcement March 21 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that U.S. infant mortality rates have decreased 15 percent from 2005 to 2014. The report also shows the U.S. infant mortality rate reached new lows for almost all populations.

“These trends are encouraging and are a testament to the hard work of all the states and national partners who have worked together through the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality (IM CoIIN) since its inception,” says NICHQ CEO Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, FAAP. “While the decade-long overall infant mortality rate trend shows a positive story, unfortunately, disparities still remain. There is certainly more work to be done.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Infant deaths declined from 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 5.82 in 2014.
  • In 2014, infant mortality rates reached new lows for Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Asian or Pacific Islander populations.
  • From 2005 through 2014, declines in infant mortality rates were observed for all races and Hispanic-origin subgroups except among American Indian or Alaska Native persons. The largest declines were among infants of Asian or Pacific Islander (21%) and non-Hispanic black (20%) women.
  • From 2005 through 2014, the infant mortality rate for sudden infant death syndrome declined 29%, which was the largest decline observed among the top five leading causes of infant death.
  • “… there was a public health push in the past decade to figure out ways to lower this rate, and it has made an impact,” said T.J. Matthews, a demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and an author of the report, according to CNN. “We know that there have been a lot of efforts across the country in cities and states where they’re trying to figure out ways where they can lower the infant mortality rate.”

To support those efforts, in 2013, the Maternal & Child Health Bureau awarded NICHQ the challenge of engaging federal, state and local leaders, public and private agencies, professionals, and communities to employ quality improvement, innovation and collaborative learning to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes. The NICHQ-led Infant Mortality CoIIN initiative focuses on six strategies to improve outcomes for pregnant women and infants, including: smoking cessation, pre/interconception care, safe sleep, social determinants of health, preterm and early term births, and risk-appropriate perinatal care.

Nearly every state is participating in the initiative, typically focusing on at least two of these strategy areas. NICHQ provides state teams with coaching and guidance on testing and implementing evidence-based strategies that ultimately lead to systems changes that better support mothers and babies.

“It’s encouraging to see that our focus areas, like safe sleep and reducing sudden infant death, are having such a profound impact,” says NICHQ’s Pat Heinrich, RN, MSN, director of the Infant Mortality CoIIN. “We’ll continue to support states in their systems transformation work to make sure more children reach their first birthday and beyond.”

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