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Mayor Vincent C. Gray and DC Department of Health Announce Historic Decrease in District’s Infant Mortality Rate

Thursday, April 26, 2012
The rate drops to 8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and officials from the DC Department of Health (DOH) announced an infant mortality rate of 8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births – a historic low for the District. This figure and the declining infant-mortality trends reflect the District’s 10-year path to achieving its Healthy People 2010 objective of reducing infant mortality.

“This is very good news for the District of Columbia,” Mayor Gray said. “This report tells us that our public-health programs are working well. It also tells us that long-term investments in public health – particularly in Wards 7 and 8 and among our most vulnerable populations – are paying dividends.”

The infant mortality rate is the best-known indicator of a community’s health status. The measure is used nationally and internationally to compare the health outcomes of jurisdictions and communities.

Several factors contributed to the District’s reduction in infant mortality, including:

  • A reduction in smoking among pregnant women;
  • Expansion and increased access to the District’s primary-care prenatal services; and
  • A reduction in teen births in the District.

“I am proud of the fine work done by the District’s executive leadership team, community-based organizations and medical providers to greatly reduce the number of infant deaths that occurred in the city,” said DOH Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter.

The Department of Health will continue to work to create a system of care that improves the health and extends the lives of women, infants and children living in the District.

The overall reduction in the District’s infant mortality rate is due to the large decline in infant deaths to African-American mothers. The rate among that group declined from 14.2 in 2009 to 10.7 in 2010.

2010 Infant Mortality Report Highlights

  • Infant mortality rates declined in Wards 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8 between 2009 and 2010.
  • The infant death rate to Hispanic mothers decreased from 8 per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 3.7 in 2010.
  • 99.6 percent of pregnant women in the District received prenatal care before their delivery and 70 percent of them began prenatal care in the first trimester.
  • The proportion of births to teenaged mothers (mothers aged 15 to 19 years) decreased by 9.3 percent between 2009 and 2010.

Continuous research and data collection have enabled DOH to identify factors such as low birth weight, lack of adequate prenatal care and prematurity as contributors to infant mortality. Early, high-quality prenatal care is one of the cornerstones of a safe motherhood program. It helps to maximize healthy outcomes for infants and mothers. Women who receive late (third trimester of pregnancy) or no prenatal care are at risk for having undetected pregnancy complications that can result in severe maternal morbidity and sometimes death.

DOH will use the latest infant-mortality data to more efficiently target and address infant deaths. Departmental programs through DOH’s Perinatal and Infant Health Bureau – such as the Safe Cribs and I Am a Healthy DC Mom programs – will take recent data into account in enhancing current maternal and child health public information campaigns and in strengthening outreach and education.

For more information, please refer to the District of Columbia Mortality Rate Report.