First National Strategy to Address Infant Mortality

Swaddling an infant helps keep babies warm and safe. Photo by: Azoreg

Despite public health efforts thus far, infant mortality still exists – roughly 25,000 infants die each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infant mortality is defined as a death of an infant before their first birthday. On Tuesday, October 16, 2012, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics presented a Grand Rounds topic on Infant Mortality.

Defining Infant Mortality

To begin, Captain Wanda Barfield, MD, MPH, FAAP, Director, Division of Reproductive Health at the CDC explained that neonatal deaths (deaths occurring between 0 and 27 days) compose of 67 percent of all infant deaths. The main causes of these deaths are due to babies being born preterm, birth defects, maternal health conditions, and lack of access to health care. Postnatal deaths (deaths occurring between 28-364 days) comprise of 33 percent of infant deaths and are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), injury, and infections.

Infant mortality rates in the U.S. Photo by the CDC

Understanding the causes of infant mortality has led to the development of the nation’s first ever national strategy to address infant mortality, called the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality (SACIM).

Reducing Infant Deaths: SACIM

The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality (SACIM) goal is to get the United States rate of infant deaths under 4.5 per 1,000 live births by 2020. Most recent national data from 2010 shows the U.S. infant mortality rate at 6.15 deaths per 1,000 live births. How will they accomplish the reduction?

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SACIM has developed six priorities to help reach that goal:

  1. Improve women’s health before pregnancy
  2. Promote quality and safety along the continuum of prenatal healthcare
  3. Invest in prevention and health promotion
  4. Promote service coordination and systems integration
  5. Strengthen surveillance and support research
  6. Promote interagency, public-private, and multidisciplinary collaboration

Within the next year, they hope to accomplish the following:

  1. Reduce elective deliveries (less than 39 weeks gestation) by 33 percent
  2. Reduce smoking rates among pregnant women by three percent
  3. Increase sleep safe practices by five percent
  4. Increase mothers delivering at appropriate facilities by 20 percent
  5. Change Medicaid policy and procedures around interconception care in at least five to eight states

What Does This Mean For You?

Being born premature is one cause of infant mortality. Photo by: Brian Hall

The driving and overall message of this topic is that infant mortality is a reflection of the health of the mother, the father, families, and communities. Poor access to health care in communities means poor health for the mother, which in turn results in infant mortality generally being higher in those areas. Since there is a lack of health care and education, women may not be aware of the dangers of smoking while pregnant or that babies should be placed on their backs when sleeping.

So for those who have limited health care access, these goals will mean more education and access to care for everyone in the community. If the SACIM meets its goals, fewer babies would die, and the U.S. would be a healthier nation overall.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant Mortality. (2012). Accessed March 14, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Grand Rounds: Infant Mortality. (2012). Accessed March 14, 2013.

© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH: Health, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Pregnancy
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  1. Val Williamson says:

    Access to health care does make a great difference. In the UK, where health care and specialised maternity care is free, an infant mortality rate of 4.1 per 1000 live births seems high and is being worked on all the time. That the US apparently has over 6 infant deaths per 1000 (25,000 dead babies each year – that’s obscene!) is in my opinion a reflection of the need to revise US health care policy.

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