Infant mortality declines in 2019, disparities persist

While the regional infant mortality declined in 2019 in Northeast Florida, it continues to be a major health issue affecting families – particularly black families. The rate decreased from 7.9 to 7.3 deaths per 1000 live births, according to data recently released from the Florida Department of Health, but black babies are still dying at nearly three times the rate of white babies.

The infant death rate for white babies was 4.9 deaths per 1000 live births, compared to 13.5 deaths for black babies. Despite gains in infant mortality over the past few decades, the racial disparities are persistent. Racial equity in birth outcomes is a key focus of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

There were 136 babies who died before their first birthday during the year, the equivalent of eight classes of kindergarteners. The regional rate remains higher than the state (6 deaths) and nation (5.6 deaths).

The leading causes of death in 2019 were:

  • Other perinatal conditions, including premature rupture of membranes, bacterial sepsis and chorioamnionitis ( (32 percent)
  • Prematurity/Low Birth Weight (21 percent)
  • Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs), which were largely sleep-related (17 percent)

The infant mortality rate varied greatly by county. Duval County, the population center of the region, at a rate of 7.9 deaths per 1000 live births – down from 9.5 deaths per 1000 live births in 2018. Counties with smaller populations like Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns tend to fluctuate from year-to-year, as a few additional or less deaths impact the rate much more than more populated counties.

County deaths per 1000 live births:

  • Baker: 11
  • Clay: 6.7
  • Duval: 7.9
  • Nassau: 4.7
  • St. Johns: 4.5

Other notable birth outcomes from 2019 include 132 fetal deaths, or stillborns (7 fetal deaths per 1000 live births), and almost 13 percent of births were premature.

There were nine maternal deaths in Northeast Florida in 2019. Baker, Clay, Duval and St. Johns  each had at least one death. All four counties had rates exceeding the Florida maternal death rate (28.6).