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November 21, 2002

Governor Announces Infant Mortality Rate Drops To Record Low

SPRINGFIELD--Governor George H. Ryan today announced that Illinois’ infant mortality rate dropped to an all-time low in 2001, continuing a downward trend that has seen the rate decline by 30 percent since 1990.

“We are encouraged by the good news,” Governor Ryan said. “This is an indication that our efforts to provide Illinois babies with a better chance of living a healthy life are successful. However, we must remain committed to state initiatives, such as family case management, that educate women to the importance of comprehensive prenatal care and to reducing the health disparities between blacks and whites.”

The infant mortality rate for 2001 was 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, a decline of 9.8 percent from the 8.3 rate in 2000 and 30 percent since 1990 when the rate was 10.7, according to statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Prior to 2001, the previous record low was 8.2, which was recorded in 1997 and 1998.

All-time low infant death rates were recorded among African Americans and whites and in Chicago and downstate.

Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, heralded the reduction in infant mortality rates and reminded expectant mothers of the importance of taking care of themselves and their unborn child through proper nutrition and prenatal care.

“In order to help assure a healthy baby, women should eat nutritional foods; not smoke, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs; and make regular visits to their doctor or health care provider during pregnancy,” Dr. Lumpkin said.

Dr. Lumpkin said the single greatest threat to newborns is low birth weight. Babies born with low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams or 5 pounds, 8 ounces) are 40 times more likely to die during the first month of life and those who survive suffer chronic physical and learning disabilities up to three times more often than normal weight infants.

The 2001 rate for African-American babies was a record-low 14.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from the previous low of 16.3 deaths in 2000. The infant mortality rate for whites was also an all-time low of 5.9. The previous low white rate was 6.2 in 1997 and 1999.

Geographically, infant mortality rates in Chicago fell from 10.5 in 2000 to 9.0 in 2001, the lowest rate ever recorded in the city. Since 1990, the infant mortality rate in Chicago has fallen 42 percent. Downstate (all geographic areas outside the city of Chicago) infant deaths decreased from 7.4 in 2000 to 6.9 in 2001. The lowest previously recorded was 7.0 in 1999.

The infant mortality rate is figured annually by taking the number of children who die before reaching 1 year of age and dividing that figure by the number of babies born in the same year, then multiplying by 1,000.

In 2001, 1,379 babies died before their first birthday (67 percent died within the first 27 days of life). The number was the lowest for any year recorded.

A total of 184,022 babies were born to Illinois women in 2001 compared with 185,003 in 2000.

For a county-by-county breakdown of infant mortality rates in Illinois for 2000 and 2001, contact Wanda Taylor at (312) 814-3158.


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