August 22, 2013

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

2012 KDHE Data: Kansas infant mortality rate increases slightly to 6.3 per 1,000

Partners continue ASTHO challenge to reduce preterm birth

TOPEKA, Kan. – The 2012 Kansas infant mortality findings and a discussion on the statistics were published today in a research brief by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics.

The number of infant deaths to Kansas residents increased from 247 in year 2011 to 254 in 2012. This resulted in an infant mortality rate of 6.3 per 1,000 live births. This is slightly higher than the rate of 6.2 in 2011, which was the lowest infant mortality rate in Kansas since the first records of 1912. The leading causes of infant deaths in Kansas are prematurity or low birth weight, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or suffocation in bed, and maternal complications of pregnancy.

The 2012 research brief can be found online at

“In past decades, we saw infant mortality counts fluctuating as great as 30 in one year, so the increases and decreases reported in recent years aren’t as sharp. However, the last five years, in particular, have shown a decreasing trend. Any increase in infant death is significant and important, and that is why KDHE and many other organizations in Kansas are committed to reducing infant mortality through research and community intervention,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer.

KDHE is one of more than 20 organizations represented on the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality, which was formed in 2009 to review the problem of infant mortality and identify potential solutions and recommendations. Experts in maternal and child health continue working to raise awareness about infant mortality and bringing resources together that help advance research into the causes of infant deaths.

Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and 1 million babies worldwide die each year due to preterm birth. Babies who survive an early birth often face lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. In March, KDHE and the March of Dimes jointly accepted a challenge from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to reduce the rate of premature birth by 8 percent by the end of 2014. The March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card shows the premature birth rate in Kansas at 11.2 percent.  This 8 percent reduction will bring Kansas to 10.3 percent, which translates to about 350 babies. 

“While many babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are able to live long, healthy lives, we know that reducing the rate of preterm births will help us reduce the rate of infant mortality as well as help prevent the lifelong health challenges often associated with babies who are born preterm,” said Moser. “With many programs and interventions across the state aimed at reducing the rate of preterm births and eliminating health disparities, one intervention is simply encouraging expecting mothers and their doctors to eliminate elective deliveries before 39 weeks.”

The attached audio clip provides you with comments from Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer.