JACKSON — Mississippi’s infant mortality rate is falling faster than the national rate, but is still high, said the state health officer, Dr. Mary Currier.
She said the rate fell 28 percent between 2005 and 2014. That included a 15 percent drop from 2005 through 2013, compared to a national drop of 13 percent — national statistics for last year are still out.
“It’s the most promising news we’ve had in a while,” Currier told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “If we continue to go in this direction, we will be making a big difference.”
Last year’s biggest drop was in the Delta: from 12.4 of every 1,000 babies in 2013 to 8.2 per thousand in 2014 — the same as the statewide rate, Currier told The Clarion-Ledger.
The Gulf Coast fell below the statewide rate, from 9.2 to 7.5.
In 2005, the infant mortality rate for black Mississippians hit 17, the highest level in recent decades. But the rate has fallen since to 11.2, accounting for much of the state’s recent decline in infant deaths.
In 2008, the rate for white Mississippians rose to 7.4, but the rate has declined since to 5.9.
“The rates are high in both races,” Currier said, “but it is decreasing.”
Most infant deaths in Mississippi are among premature babies. The state still has the nation’s highest prematurity rate, Dr. Charlene Collier, a University of Mississippi Medical Center obstetrician-gynecologist and head of the Mississippi Perinatal Quality Collaborative, told the Daily Journal.
She said much work has been done to open access to prenatal care, and it’s been widely successful. The next step is helping mothers-to-be control high blood pressure and diabetes, obesity and tobacco use, she said.
“We need moms healthy before they get pregnant,” Currier said.