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Healthy Communities

Infant Mortality

What is infant mortality?image of infant being examined by doctor

Infant mortality is a statistic that looks at the number of babies who die each year before they reach their first birthday. It is usually calculated as the number of babies who die out of every 1,000 babies who are born alive in a year. Infant mortality can be divided into neonatal mortality and post-neonatal mortality. When newborn babies die less than 28 days after they are born, it is called neonatal mortality. When babies die, who are older than 27 days but younger that one year, it is called post-neonatal mortality. Neonatal and post-neonatal mortality often have different causes, so it can be helpful to look at them one by one. 

Why is infant mortality a public health problem?

The death of a baby is a tragedy for any family. It is also a tragedy for the people in an area, because a baby’s death means that the good the child could have brought to the community during his or her life has been lost.  

High infant mortality also means that there are public health problems in the community that need to be addressed. So, it is important to see what problems cause a community to have a high infant mortality rate so that people and organizations can work together to solve those problems and protect the health of the next generation.

How big is the problem of infant mortality?

In 2014, 290 babies died in Arkansas before their first birthday. The infant mortality rate for that year was 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.  The U.S. infant mortality rate for 2014 was 5.8. Arkansas’s neonatal mortality rate was 4.5 per 1,000 live births, and the post-neonatal mortality rate was 3.0 per 1,000 live births. Arkansas’s neonatal mortality rate was slightly higher than the U.S. neonatal mortality rate, which was 3.9. The post-neonatal mortality rate for Arkansas was also higher than the U.S. post-neonatal mortality rate, which was 1.9.

HRSA/MCH Infant Mortality Reduction Activities in Arkansasimage of infant holding parent's finger

The 2014 Infant Mortality Rate was 7.5.  A 15% decrease over a decade and a half.  This gives Arkansas the 6th highest IM Rate in the nation.

Causes of infant mortality are many and the subject of infant mortality reduction is very broad.  Efforts to reduce infant mortality can be very clinical in nature and others may focus more on behavior.   The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and especially the Family Health Branch’s work to reduce infant mortality take many forms and often have multiple purposes. The Family Health Branch Chief serves as the MCH Director for the state and the following activities are either under his direction or where Branch staff are contributing participants.

Infant Mortality CoIIN, Safe Sleep Learning Network


37 percent of 40 birthing hospitals and Arkansas Children’s Hospital are certified through Cribs for Kids and 7 more are in review for certification.  Two birthing hospitals and ACH are Gold Certified: UAMS, White River Medical Center, and ACH.   Safe Sleep education materials are now included with the WIC welcome backpack.  Safe Sleep education has been added to ADH’s policy manual.
Here is a list of their recommendations.

Improvement by the numbers for Safe Sleep Activities

Number of Hospitals Before CoIIN Success to Date
Number of hospitals with written safe sleep policies 7 21
Number of hospitals educating parents on safe sleep 7 21
Number of hospitals formally training staff on safe sleep 3 21
Number of safe sleep certified hospitals 1 13
Stork's Nest, Sisters, and Brothers United safe sleep educated community volunteers and participants 42 Over 400

Successful Changes

Change: Hospital Safe Sleep Toolkit

Change: Hospital Site Visits

Change: Safe Sleep Education at LHU

Health Equity: Steps to Eliminate Disparities

We have acted to improve health equity and eliminate disparities. We have partnered with:

They have community outreach events, prenatal classes, and social media campaigns geared toward high risk populations.

Infant Mortality CoIIN, Pre & Early Term Birth Learning Network

Future Change: Pulaski County initiative ‘Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait’

 Ready to spread when:

Perinatal Regionalization Committee

A significant cause of infant mortality is prematurity. In Arkansas as elsewhere, maternal and newborn intensive care for very premature deliveries and births has reduced mortality for those most at risk. However, access to perinatal intensive care services in NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) is inconsistent and this state lacks formal public policy to address the inconsistencies. Regionalization of NICUs will increase the likelihood that a mother and infant receive risk-appropriate medical care to reduce maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and to minimize cost. With this in mind, a NICU Regionalization Committee (later renamed the Arkansas Perinatal Regionalization Committee) was created by the Arkansas Department of Health to examine the issue and to make recommendations. 

The Plan for Designation

The Future of Regionalization

Breastfeeding Promotion Workgroup

Arkansas Perinatal Forum

Infant Mortality Reduction is a primary goal in the MCH Work Plan as well as the ADH Strategic Plan.  


Public Health Accrediation Board
Arkansas Department of Health
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4815 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR 72205-3867