SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials are worried about an increase in the state’s infant mortality rate.
The state Department of Health announced this week that the death rate among infants one year or younger increased from 5.2 infant deaths per one thousand live births in 2011 to 6.9 in 2012. This marks the first time since 1994 that the state rate has exceeded the national rate, which was 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 2011.
“The New Mexico Department of Health will be monitoring the numbers closely to see if it was the beginning of a trend,” Health Secretary Retta Ward said.
The main increase in deaths was among white and Hispanic infants under 28 days old. Birth defects as well as low birth weight and disorders related to preterm births were the most common causes of infant deaths.
The health department reported that birth defects accounted for more than a quarter of infant deaths in 2012.
Department officials said they have been participating in a regional collaborative network since 2012 to reduce infant mortality. The team focuses on promoting safe sleep and encouraging mothers to quit smoking, among other things.
New Mexico is also one of 13 states selected by the National Governors Association to participate in a network aimed at improving birth outcomes.
The department’s Family Health Bureau also works with March of Dimes to increase awareness about the need for folic acid supplements. Research shows women of childbearing age who take such supplements are at a lower risk for having a child with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.