Reducing Infant Mortality2022-02-01T15:13:35-08:00

California’s infant mortality rate is lower than the nation’s and has reached a record low.1

Infant mortality is an important indicator of the overall health and well-being of the population. The infant mortality rate is regarded as a highly sensitive measure of population health because there is an association between the causes of infant mortality and other factors that influence the status of whole populations such as economic development, general living conditions, social well-being, rates of illness, quality and access to medical care, public health practices, and quality of the environment. The infant mortality rate is measured as the number of infant deaths before one year of age for every 1,000 live births in that population. About two-thirds of infant deaths occur before a baby is one month old, and the remaining third between two and 12 months of life.2

Infant mortality is linked to women’s health status with healthier moms having healthier babies. Considering nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned, it is critical for women to get healthy now. Women’s health is multifaceted and includes good nutrition, reducing or quitting smoking, and avoiding excess alcohol use. Optimal health also includes managing stress, strong social support, education, economic stability, and being able to live in healthy neighborhoods for physical activity and community safety. Of course, being able to access high quality health care also matters.

Indicator Progress

In 2010 (baseline year), there were 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. The most recent rate available is 4.2 (2017). We hope to reach a target of 4.0 or lower by 2022.

More Data about Infant Mortality



Current Rate




Indicator Highlights

California Home Visiting Program

California Home Visiting Program (CHVP)

Home visiting programs pair at-risk and expecting parents with public health nurses or para-professionals who offer an intensive, positive parenting program to help vulnerable families independently raise their children. Participants in CHVP have one or more risk factors including domestic violence, low income, unstable housing, education less than 12 years, substance abuse, or depression and/or mental illness. CHVP focuses on improving maternal and newborn health; preventing childhood injuries, abuse, neglect, maltreatment, and Emergency Department visits; improving school readiness and achievements; reducing domestic violence; increasing family economic stability; and coordinating access to community resources, social services and supports. CHVP utilizes evidence-based home visiting models.

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Causes and Risk Factors

The most common causes of infant deaths are birth defects, preterm births and low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), maternal complications of pregnancy, infection, and infant injuries.2

Low birthweight can cause serious problems in newborns and is a risk factor for infant deaths. Read more »

Impact of Stress

Chronic maternal stress is increasingly recognized as one of the contributing risk factors for preterm birth as well as chronic disease that develop later in life.3

Thousands of Babies Saved

Since awareness campaigns for safe sleep practices for babies started in 1994, the SIDS rate in California declined by 47% between 1992 and 1998. This decreased rate resulted in thousands of babies’ lives saved because parents and caregivers placed babies on their backs to sleep.4

Promoting the health of women throughout life (both before and during pregnancy) is necessary to prevent preterm birth and low birth weight as well as other complications of pregnancy.5

Pregnant women and their newborns must have timely access to hospitals with the right level of quality health care to optimize health outcomes for mom and baby.6

Health for mothers and infants starts before the hospital or doctor’s office; it begins in communities. The income of a neighborhood is often directly related to the health of its inhabitants: one’s zip code is more important than genetic code in determining health outcomes.7

Healthy communities provide family support, safe places to live, smoke free environments, access to healthy foods and recreation, and prevention services such as immunizations and breastfeeding support.

Data Snapshot: Trends & Disparities

Some populations in California continue to experience high rates of infant deaths.

Although California’s infant mortality rate is better than the national average, there are significant disparities, with African-American infant mortality at more than twice the rate of other groups.

Disparities in underlying causes of infant deaths occur as well. For example, the African-American SIDS rate is almost five times that of both the White and the Hispanic SIDS rate (2012).8

Infant mortality rates vary significantly by county. Several southern and central valley counties have rates above the statewide average.9

There are higher rates of infant mortality in neighborhoods with a greater percent of the population experiencing poverty.10

Infant Mortality – Deaths per 1,000 Live Births, by Over Time

Infant Mortality – Deaths per 1,000 Live Births, by Demographic Category

Infant Mortality – Deaths per 1,000 Live Births, by County


Indicator: Infant Mortality, Deaths per 1,000 Live Births

Description: Infant Mortality is defined as the number of deaths in infants under one year of age per 1,000 live births. Infant mortality is often used as an indicator to measure the health and well-being of a community, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants. Although California’s infant mortality rate is better than the national average, there are significant disparities, with African American babies dying at more than twice the rate of other groups. Data are from the Birth Cohort Files. The infant mortality indicator computed from the birth cohort file comprises birth certificate information on all births that occur in a calendar year (denominator) plus death certificate information linked to the birth certificate for those infants who were born in that year but subsequently died within 12 months of birth (numerator).

Data Limitations: The California Infant Mortality Rate cannot be compared to the national infant mortality rate published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The national data source uses the 2010 period linked file, which consists of all infant deaths occurring in 2010 that have been linked to their corresponding birth certificates, whether the birth occurred in 2009 or in 2010. The California Infant Mortality Rate is based on the birth cohort linked file, which contains a numerator that consists of all infant deaths to babies born in a single year whether the death occurred in that year or the next.

Indicator Source: California Department of Public Health, Center for Health Statistics and Informatics

Indicator Calculation Methodology: Single year shown to provide state-level data and county totals for the most recent year. Numerator: Infants deaths (under age 1 year). Denominator: Live births occurring to California state residents. Multiple years aggregated to allow for stratifications at the county level.

Data Collection Methodology: The Birth Cohort Files contain data for all live births that occurred in a calendar year, death information for those infants who were born in that year but subsequently died within 12 months of birth, and all fetal deaths that also occurred during that calendar year.

Program URL Link:

1. March of Dimes. (n.d.). Stress and Pregnancy. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

2. California Department of Public Health, Birth and Death Statistical Master Files, 2012

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, 29 August). Preconception Health and Health Care. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

4. March of Dimes. (n.d.). Toward Improving the Outcome of Pregnancy III. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

5. RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America. (2009). Beyond Health Care. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

6. 2011 California Birth Cohort File

7. 2009- 2011 California Birth Cohort Files

8. 2008-2011 California Birth Cohort Files

Stories & Solutions

Increasing Breastfeeding Duration

If 90% of US families could comply with current medical guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the US could avoid about $18.5 billion per year in increased health care costs (2014 dollars). 1 The multiple health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for both the infant and mother are well [...]

Best Babies Zone (BBZ) in Alameda County – Castlemont Neighborhood (Oakland, CA)

The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative is an innovative, multi-sector approach to reducing infant mortality and racial disparities in birth outcomes and improving birth and health outcomes by mobilizing communities to address the social determinants that affect health.

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