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County infant mortality rate in decline

By Staff
Gaps remain between white, black babies
Staff Reports, Hartselle Enquirer
More than six Morgan County babies per 1,000 live births died last year, a number lower than the state average.
The Alabama Department of Public Health released the 2003 figures last week. Alabama's infant mortality rate was 8.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, the lowest number ever recorded in the state. Alabama's infant mortality rate in 2002 was 9.1, representing 538 infant deaths.
Infant mortality rates among whites in Morgan County are substantially lower than that of blacks and other minorities. The infant mortality rate among whites is 4.8 per 1,000 births. Among minorities, the infant mortality rate is 9.4 per 1,000 live births.
Both figures are below the years before, when the infant mortality rate among whites was 6.7 in 2002 and 6.1 in 2001. Among minorities, the 2002 infant mortality rate was 15.4 and 11.8 in 2002.
The decline is due to several factors, according to Dr. Donald Williams, state health officer.
"This substantial decrease can be attributed to a number of factors," Williams said. "Through combined efforts, significant progress has been made in providing adequate prenatal care, reducing the teen birth rate and lowering the percentage of mothers who smoke."
The percent of births to teens was at its lowest level ever, 13.9 percent, which officials said was important because the infant mortality rate among teens is 50 percent higher than among adult mothers.
The number of teen births declined from 8.589 in 2002 to 8,248 in 2003, the lowest number of births to Alabama teenagers ever recorded.
"This decrease is evidence that efforts designed to reduce our state's infant mortality rate are succeeding," Williamson said. "We must continue to intensity our efforts to address the many issues that contribute to infant mortality."
Alabama's infant mortality rate for blacks is below the national average of 14.1 per 1,000 live births, but is higher than the rest of the country for whites. The national infant mortality rate for whites is 6.5.
Alabama's infant mortality rate was higher for births to teen mothers (12.2) than that of adult mothers (8.2); for mothers who smoke (12) than for those who do not (8.3); and for mothers with less-than-adequate prenatal care (13.8) than mothers receiving adequate prenatal care (7).