Florida Leads Southern States In Low Infant Mortality Rates

Posted on Dec 4, 2012

Healthy Start’s goal is to reduce Florida’s infant mortality and morbidity rates. The Healthy Start program has contributed to improvements in birth outcomes – infant mortality, while still high, has declined to a rate of 6.4 in 2011[i] per 1,000 live births, its lowest level.  Florida leads Southern States in low infant mortality rates. 

Challenges Remain

In Florida, our challenge remains, with minority health disparities and premature births.  Although infant deaths as a whole have decreased, minority infant deaths have increased.  Black infant mortality rates continue to show a disparity at a rate of 12.0 per 1,000 live births compared to the White rate of 4.6 per 1,000 live births. The Hispanic infant mortality rate increased slightly to 5.2 per 1,000 live births in 2011.  According to ongoing research by the University of California, even after accounting for multiple risk factors such as genetics, behavior, access to prenatal care, socioeconomic issues, stress and infection, still 90 percent of the racial and ethnic health disparities are unexplained.

Prematurity is a leading cause of infant death.  In 2011, 28,560 babies were born prematurely in Florida.[ii] Born too small, too soon, babies who are born at a very low weight at birth (less than 1,500 grams, or three pounds, five ounces) have a 24-percent chance of dying within their first year. [iii]  The average medical costs for a preterm baby are more than 10 times higher than those for a healthy full-term baby. The costs for a healthy baby from birth to his first birthday were $4,551; however, for a preterm baby, the costs were $49,033.[iv]


2013 Legislative Priorities

  • Restore $3.2M to Healthy Start as recurring funds to protect Florida’s babies and reduce immediate and future costs.  For 2011, Healthy Start was cut by $5.4M, then was partially restored $3.2M for 2012 ($2.2 million in recurring and $1 million non-recurring).  State records show that due to funding cuts in 2011, Healthy Start provided 54,202 fewer services to pregnant women and newborns, including 1,149 pregnant women at the most intensive risk level.
  • Provide resources to expand and fund a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) project to each Healthy Start coalition.  Local FIMR teams of professionals review infant deaths to determine cause and make recommendations to reduce future risk.  Of 33 Healthy Start catchment areas, currently only eleven receive funding for this nationally recognized model.  $479,248 would enable all Healthy Start Coalitions to facilitate or conduct systematic reviews of fetal and infant deaths by providing funding for 22 additional FIMR teams throughout the state ($21,784 for each additional FIMR team).
  • Providing health care coverage to women of childbearing age before, during and between pregnancies.  Access to health care during before, during and between pregnancies has a direct and measurable impact on birth outcomes, particularly prematurity and low birthweight which contribute to racial disparities in maternal and infant health.


[i] Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, 2011 Data, Infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

[ii] Florida CHARTS, Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Total Preterm Births

[iv] March of Dimes, 2007, The Cost to Business