The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is celebrating the lowest infant mortality rate in the state in three years.
TDH data show there were 38 fewer infant deaths in the state in 2018 than in 2017. Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child before his or her first birthday, and is a critical indicator of the overall health of the state.
Tennessee’s infant mortality rate fell to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018 from a rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017 and 2016.
Although the rate of infant deaths is declining in Tennessee, statistics show the need for enhanced efforts to improve birth outcomes. The state’s current infant mortality rate still exceeds the national rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, and the rate of death of black infants continues to be nearly twice that of white infants.
While no single solution will prevent all infant deaths, TDH has partnered with hospitals and community organizations to reduce the risks of infant deaths through promotion of safe sleep practices, preconception health and prenatal care and reduction of early elective deliveries.
Approximately 20 percent of infant deaths in Tennessee each year are due to unsafe sleeping conditions. Several hospitals and community agencies are educating parents and caregivers about safe sleep using TDH educational materials. TDH has partnered with hospitals and other providers to promote safe sleep so families have the correct information.
Safe sleep practices can prevent SIDS and other sleep-related deaths of babies. TDH promotes the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that infants should:
- Always be placed on their backs to sleep
- Sleep alone in a crib or bassinet, which can be in the same room as an adult caregiver
- Not have bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals, toys or pets in their cribs
- Sleep on a firm crib mattress with the mattress covered only by a fitted sheet
Learn more about safe sleep and order free TDH educational materials.
TDH has created a data dashboard to allow community partners to access infant mortality data for their region. The dashboard assists partners in implementing prevention activities based on the most common causes of infant death in their area.
Learn more about TDH programs and services for maternal and child health.
TDH also has joined THA to create the BEST for Tennessee Babies award. The BEST award is presented to hospitals annually to recognize their meeting criteria around breastfeeding, reducing early elective deliveries and safe sleep.