Mississippi's infant mortality rate is steadily declining and state health officials are examining what is contributing to the lower rates. In 2005, the state's infant mortality rate was 11.4 deaths per 1000 live births. In 2012, that number dropped to 8.8. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier says she is encouraged by the decline.
"Our Infant Mortality has been between nine and a little over ten deaths per thousand live births. We've been number one in the country, unfortunately for a long time now," said Currier. "This right now, is the first time that we've had an infant mortality of less than nine."
In addition to the lowest infant mortality figures ever recorded in Mississippi, the state has also seen a decline in the teen birth rate. Currier says the drop in both numbers are directly related.
"Our birth rate to teens has gone down from 50.2 per thousand 15-19 year-old girls, to 46 per thousand. We've had fewer births to teens, and our infant mortality rate among teens has decreased. Being a teenager puts at risk for having a baby that dies the first year of life."
While infant mortality rates in Mississippi are still among the highest in the nation, Dina Ary with the March of Dimes says women who are pregnant can take a number steps to prevent the deaths of their children.
"Pretty basic things like eating healthy, taking folic acid, not smoking, not drinking, making sure they are getting pre-natal care." Ary says, "We even advise that women of child bearing age to be getting frequent pre-conception care. Which would mean planning your pregnancy before you ever even had a pregnancy."
Even though Mississippi's infant mortality rate is on the decline, it still remains above the national average.