Arkansas had the third-highest infant mortality rate in the nation in 2022, with 7.67 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Infant mortality” refers to the death of an infant before his or her first birthday.
There were 309 infant deaths in the state in 2021 and 272 infant deaths in 2022, the data show. Although the infant mortality rate decreased by 11% compared to 2021, when Arkansas had the second-highest infant mortality rate in the U.S. (8.59 deaths per 1,000 births), the decrease was not deemed statistically significant.
Nationally, the infant mortality rate experienced the first year-over-year increase in 20 years. Infant deaths increased by 3% between 2021 and 2022, with a rate of 5.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 5.44 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021. This represents 19,928 infant deaths in 2021 and 20,538 infant deaths in 2022.
Provisional neonatal morality rates (deaths at less than 28 days old) increased nationally by 3% compared to 2021, with 3.58 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 3.49 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021. Preterm infant mortality rates (deaths at less than 37 weeks of gestation) increased by 3% from 2021 to 2022, with 34.69 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 33.59 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021. Early preterm mortality rates (deaths at less than 34 weeks of gestation) increased by 4%, with 107.61 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 103.08 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021.
Among the 10 leading causes of death for U.S. infants, two saw increases that were statistically significant — maternal complications and bacterial sepsis. Infant deaths from maternal complications increased by 9% from 2021 to 2022, with 33 deaths per 100,000 births in 2022, compared to 30.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 2021. Maternal complications include conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Infant deaths from bacterial sepsis increased by 14% from 2021 to 2022, with 17.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 2022, compared to 15.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2021.
Infant mortality rates among American Indian and Alaska Native infants and White infants in the U.S. saw statistically significantly increases from 2021 to 2022. The infant mortality rate among American Indian and Alaska Native infants was 9.06 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 7.46 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021; the rate among White infants was 4.52 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 4.36 deaths per 1,000 births in 2021. Infant mortality rates among Black, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and Hispanic infants also increased from 2021 to 2022, but these increases were not deemed statistically significant. Deaths among Black infants remain the highest of all racial and ethnic groups, with 10.86 deaths per 1,000 births in 2022, compared to 4.52 deaths per 1,000 births among White infants in the same year.
In Arkansas, efforts are underway to reduce infant deaths. One such effort is the Following Baby Back Home program, developed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Department of Pediatrics, which seeks to improve outcomes for high-risk infants by providing health-oriented home visiting and care management services following the infants’ discharge from neonatal intensive care. ACHI and UAMS partnered on an evaluation of the program in 2019.
ACHI has highlighted health risks in the birthing journey along with policy options to achieve better maternal and infant health outcomes, including pre-pregnancy preparation, timely initiation of prenatal care, and home visits. Most recently, an ACHI analysis identified variations in cesarean-section rates across Arkansas. C-section delivery, while medically necessary in certain circumstances, carries increased risk for children (e.g., respiratory problems and increased risk of obesity), mothers (e.g., infection and blood loss/clots), and future pregnancies (e.g., additional C-sections and placenta issues). For more information, visit our Maternal and Infant Health page.
 Other leading causes of infant death include: congenital malformations; short gestation and low birthweight, not elsewhere classified; sudden infant death syndrome; accidents (unintentional injuries); complications of placenta, cord and membranes; respiratory distress of a newborn; diseases of the circulatory system; and neonatal hemorrhage.