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More Black Babies die in Mississippi than in Any Other State

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby before his or her first birthday and is considered an important indicator of the overall quality of health and health care of a population.  More babies die in Mississippi than in any other state in the nation. As Table 1 below shows, about 40% of all infant deaths happened on the first day of life. Another 25% happened within the first month. The remainder occur among babies over 1 month old.


Also, substantially more black babies die (11.9 deaths per 1,000 live births) than white infant (6.2 deaths per 1,000 live births). The leading causes of infant mortality are: preterm birth, birth defects, and sudden infant deaths, particularly related to unsafe sleeping practices.

As Table 2 below shows, in 2017 nearly 60% of black babies compared with 39% of white babies died in Mississippi.


Pregnant women with existing medical conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of complications like preterm birth and stillbirth.  Poorly managed diabetes can lead to birth defects.  Table 3 below shows the percentage of chronic conditions associated with infant deaths in 2017.


Premature Birth – the Leading Cause of Infant Deaths in Mississippi

Preterm birth is birth before 37 completed weeks gestation. It is the leading cause of neonatal death in the United States and places infants at risk for lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, blindness and physical and neurological impairment. Infants born before 34 weeks gestation are at the greatest risk of death and numerous lifelong morbidities; however, late preterm infants, born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation, also are more likely than their term counterparts to experience serious short- and long-term complications.

In 2017, there were 37,370 babies born in Mississippi of which 5,064 were born prematurely. Mississippi’s preterm birth rate is 13.6%, the highest in the nation. Its late preterm rate is 9.67%, the highest in the nation followed by Louisiana, West Virginia, and Alabama.  More than 50 percent (2,619) of the premature babies were black. The preterm birth rate for black babies is 16.3%, 46% higher than the rate of other racial groups. Whites and Latinos have rates of 11.5% and 11%, respectively.

Premature Babies Born to Hinds County Residents

More babies are born prematurely in Hinds County than any other county in the State. In 2017, 505 babies were born prematurely in Hinds County; 83% (422) were black, 15% (76) whites, and 7 were of “other” races. Hinds is the largest, most urban, and most populous county in Mississippi, with a preterm birth rate of 16%. 

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