Oklahoma has seen fewer babies die in recent years before their first birthday, health leaders said Tuesday.
Officials at Tuesday’s state Board of Health meeting discussed the progress made in reducing Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate, the rate in which Oklahoma’s babies die before their first birthday.
In Oklahoma, the infant mortality rate has decreased by 13 percent in the last five years from 8.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 7.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012.
Stephen Ronck, deputy commissioner of community and family health services, said this decrease represented 72 Oklahoma babies who lived past their first birthday.
“If data continues to hold true, we hope to see another major decrease in infant mortality,” Ronck said during his board presentation. “I hope I can stand up here at some point and tell you about that.”
Although Oklahoma has seen a decrease, the state has a long way to go.
Oklahoma has the seventh highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana have higher rates, according to the CDC.
Infant mortality rate is often used as an indicator to measure the health and well-being of a nation because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants, according to the CDC.
The top three causes of infant death in Oklahoma are very low birth weight or prematurity, birth defects of the heart and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to state data.
Oklahoma’s high rates of tobacco use and obesity along with limited access to preventive health care before a pregnancy contribute to the top causes for infant mortality, according to state data.
The numbers discussed Tuesday did not include a breakdown of infant mortality among different races.
Oklahoma has seen high rates of infant mortality among its black and American Indian populations.
In 2012, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate among its black residents was 14.5. Nationally, the infant mortality rate among black Americans is 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.
Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate in 2012 among American Indian residents was 9.8, according to state data. Nationally, American Indian and Alaska Natives populations have 1.6 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.