Infant mortality rate relatively unchanged, sleep-related deaths still an issue

Infant mortality in Northeast Florida was relatively unchanged in 2017, dropping slightly from 7.4 to 7.3 deaths per 1000 live births. 137 babies died before their first birthday, the equivalent of eight classes of kindergarteners. The regional rate remains higher than the state (6.1 deaths) and nation (5.9 deaths).

Duval County, the population center of the region, continues to drive the region’s infant mortality rate with 8 deaths per 1000 live births. Counties with smaller populations like Baker, Clay 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.

Black babies are still dying at more than twice the rate of white babies. Black moms are nearly 2.5 times as likely to experience an infant death as white moms (12.5 deaths per 1000 live births, compared to 5.2 deaths). This trend has been consistent over the past five years. National trends show that racial disparities persist despite education level or socioeconomic status.

The leading cause of death in 2017 was other perinatal conditions, including infections like bacterial sepsis, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix and placenta complications.

One in five deaths was due to Sudden Unexpected Infants Deaths (SUIDs) in 2017, most of which were sleep-related. Over the past six years, a larger proportion of infant deaths have been attributed to SUIDs. The number of sleep-related deaths and the SUIDs death rate have both increased by nearly 30 percent.  Bedsharing is a leading factor identified in sleep-related deaths.