Report: Arizona infant mortality increased 11% in 2022
Infant mortality in Arizona jumped 11% from 2021 to 2022. That pushed the state’s infant mortality rate above the national average.
The findings are detailed in the annual Arizona Child Fatality Review Team report, released this month. The rate of infant mortality in the state is now 6 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 births nationally.
Dr. Mary Rimsza, chair of the Arizona Child Fatality Review Team, said an increase in infant suffocation deaths contributed to the rise.
“They almost always happen when a child has been put to bed in an unsafe sleep environment. They should always go to sleep alone, on their back and in a crib," Rimsza said.
The report analyzes the 875 child deaths reported in Arizona in 2022. For infants 0 to 27 days old, the leading cause of death was prematurity, for infants 28 days old to 1 year, it was suffocation. The leading cause for children 1 to 4 was drowning, for children 5 to 14 it was motor vehicle crashes, and for children 15 to 17 it was firearm injuries.
The report shows major racial disparities in some categories of child deaths. For example, 27% of Arizona's child drowning deaths in 2022 were among Black children, while Black children make up only 6% of the state's child population. Similarly, 14% of motor vehicle crash deaths were among Native American children, who make up only 5% of the child population. The disparities indicate a need for tailored public health interventions in those communities, the report says.
The report points out one major risk factors for child death is poverty. Poverty was found to be a factor in 59% of deaths of infants under 1 year and was also a leading risk factor among other age groups. The report's authors recommend Arizona lawmakers invest more in programs for families, including affordable housing, food assistance, health care and child care.
"We need to be investing in our children to prevent these deaths," Rimsza said. "There are lots of actions the legislature could take that would help us reduce child deaths by providing better financial help to families."