The Alabama Department of Public Health says infant mortality rates in the state have hit a nine-year high, which is concerning to state health leaders.
“Our infant mortality rate is troubling and disheartening and trending in the wrong direction," says acting state health officer Dr. Scott Harris, "Challenges include ensuring mothers have access to healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy, reducing premature births, the opioid epidemic, and addressing persistent racial disparities."
State leaders say the racial disparity in infant mortality is still not fully understood. While state is now up to 9.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the rate for black infants (15.1) is more than twice of white infants (6.5). The white infant mortality rate was at a record low rate of 5.2 in 2015.
Health experts say the three leading causes of infant mortality are congenital malformation, premature births and sudden infant death syndrom (SIDS).
Preterm births (before 37 weeks) are have increased from 11.7 percent to 12 percent, but low weight births are down from 10.4 percent to 10.3 percent.
One positive sign state leaders share is that births to teens are now at an all-time low of 7.7 percent in 2016.