(WHNT) — Alabama’s infant mortality rate rose 8.6% from 2020 to 2021 — a harrowing number that equates to more than 400 children dying before turning one year old.

Infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant before their first birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) says the rate for 2021 was 7.6 deaths for every 1,000 live births — or 443 total deaths. That’s an increase over the flat rate of seven recorded in 2020, and well above the nation’s rate of 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The rate is even more dire for Black mothers, who continue the path of having the highest infant mortality rate in the state. 12.1 out of every 1,000 live births among Black children resulted in death, up from 10.9 in 2020.

White mothers faced an infant mortality rate of 5.8, an increase from 5.2 in 2020, while Hispanic mothers saw their rate decrease from 7.2 in 2020 to 5.2, or 29 infant deaths, in 2021.

While infant and fetal deaths increased in 2021, there were a few bright spots in ADPH’s report.

  • Low-weight births decreased from 10.8% to 10.5%
  • The percentage of births with no prenatal care decreased from 2.6% to 2.2%
  • Teenage births continued to decline
  • The percentage of births with maternal smoking fell to an all-time low of 6.1%

Live births increased overall from 57,643 in 2020 to just over 58,000 in 2021. Once again, when broken down by race, those numbers vary wildly. According to ADPH, births along Black and Other racial categories fell from 20,151 to 19,710, while white mothers saw an increase from 37,492 to 38,870 births. Hispanic mothers had 5,598 babies in 2021, the highest ever seen among that ethnic category.

“Infant mortality is closely related to social determinants of health, such as race, poverty and education,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“Alabama must continue our commitment and efforts to prevent infant deaths by promoting evidence-based initiatives such as home visiting nurses to first-time mothers and high-risk pregnancies, safe sleep education, and the ‘Count the Kicks’ campaign,” Harris continued.

To see full infant mortality rate statistics for 2021, visit alabamapublichealth.gov.