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Infant Health

We want all mothers and their babies to be healthy. Where people live, work, learn, play, worship, and age affects a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes. These life conditions can support or hinder positive health outcomes.

One way we measure the well-being of mothers and families is to track rates of infant mortality. Infant mortality is the death of a child within the first year of life. Rates of infant mortality can tell us about the condition of people’s environments. In our Nation:

  • In 2019, 20,927 infants—5.6 per 1,000—died before their first birthday. This rate is continuing to decline and reach historic lows.i
  • Two out of three of those deaths occurred within the first 4 weeks of life.i
  • Of all infant deaths
    • More than 1 in 3 are directly related to being born too early.
    • About 1 in 5 are related to birth defects.
    • About 15 in every 100 deaths are sleep-related Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID).ii
  • Non-Hispanic Black and indigenous infants (American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander) have the highest rates of death and are about two times more likely to die compared to non-Hispanic White infants.i

Our approach to infant health

Our programs work at multiple stages across the life course. We partner at the national, state, and local levels. With our committed partners, our programs support effective systems of services that are coordinated and comprehensive.

Improving access to quality services

  • Supporting the development of preventive screenings and guidelines for mothers and babies
  • Integrating preventive health education, interventions, and services to make sure
    • Safe infant sleep practices become the norm
    • Higher-risk mothers and newborns deliver at hospitals that can provide care
    • More mothers are breastfeeding their babies
  • Evaluating new technologies for diagnosis and in screening programs

Advancing equity

  • Eliminating racial and geographic health disparities by addressing systemic and social inequities, such as:
    • helping parents and caregivers to secure housing
    • applying for the Earned Income Tax Credit
    • connecting with job training and employment assistance
  • Investing in places where infant mortality rates are worse than national averages
  • Measuring disparities by collecting and examining data on different demographic factors, like race and ethnicity, income, education, and rurality

Strengthening the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) workforce

  • Investing in technical assistance support that provides training and professional development for home visitors, Healthy Start workers, community health workers, and grantees

Maximizing impact through leadership, partnership, and stewardship

  • Engaging women, fathers & partners, families, and community members in program development, implementation, and evaluation

Our investments

We provide grant funding to a variety of programs that work together to make sure all babies are born healthy and reach their first birthday. These programs also promote better health for mothers before, during, and after pregnancies.

Our investments encourage coordinated systems of services in order to prevent infant illness, injury, and death and advance equity.

Gathering data and tracking progress

We gather program data and national data to track progress. We evaluate the impact of our investments.


https://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Health_Statistics/NCHS/Dataset_Documentation/DVS/period-cohort-linked/19PE18CO_linkedUG.pdf (PDF - 589 KB)

ii https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_09.pdf (PDF - 993 KB)

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