Infant Mortality: The Problem and Solutions


About Infant Mortality in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control is the government entity that tracks infant mortality in the U.S.  They note that the five leading causes of this problem are:

  • Birth defects (20.4%)
  • Pre-term or low birth weight (18%)
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS (6.7%)
  • Pregnancy complications (diabetes/high blood pressure/obesity/infection/etc.-6%)
  • Injuries (4.9%)

But this is a complex issue.  Infant mortality is significantly worse in

  • rural v. urban areas

Click here for an NPR report on rural poverty.

  • poor v. rich communities

Here is a CBS story about the link between poverty and infant mortality.  And this is Newsweeks’s take on it.  And this is a blogpost by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the issue of poverty and health.  

  • black v. white populations

 According to this academic study, you are more likely to survive to your first birthday if you are born to a white woman with an 8th grade education than to a black woman with a college degree!

Here is the Guardian’s report on the issue of race and infant and maternal mortality in San Francisco.

The New York Times Magazine did an in-depth report on this issue in 2018.  Click here for that report.

What We Can Do

So there are lots reasons for America’s high infant mortality rate.  And they all seem like enormous, unrelated problems.  With all the complexity inherent in infant mortality, what are some of the solutions?

We will never be able to get the infant mortality rate to zero, but there are MANY things we can do that we know will address the problem.

Infant death from birth defects can be reduced with:

We can improve infant mortality linked to low birth weight and premature delivery by:

We can reduce the number of SIDS deaths by:

We can reduce infant deaths due to pregnancy complications by:

And we even have some ideas about addressing discrimination in health care:

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation blogged about a way forward here.  And discusses new narratives of hope here.

The Washington Post explored the topic in this article.

Here is an interesting plan for funding infant mortality programs that comes out of Ohio.

This is a great read about promising practices to prevent infant mortality.

The March of Dimes has listed their priorities for policies to improve infant morality in the states here.



Mike’s booties, by Nanci Elf.

2 thoughts on “Infant Mortality: The Problem and Solutions

  1. Mary – I applaud your efforts. I am Swan Sheridan’s aunt. Beginning in January I will be the president of the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). I would add a couple of things to your list of “what we can do”. First – a comprehensive childbirth education class. Not all classes are the same. (I’d love to go into detail on what “comprehensive” means to me.) Secondly, take a look at This is a group with an app that helps pregnant women monitor their babies’ movements – which helps prevent stillbirth in some babies.
    Thank you for all you are doing to bring attention to this issue.

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