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Infectious diseases: preventable causes of infant mortality


After almost a century of improvement, the rate of decrease in US infant mortality rates began to level off during the period of 1982 to 1984. Rates actually increased in some states. Because much of the decline in infant mortality in this century can be attributed to advances in infectious disease treatment and prevention programs, we evaluated the current impact of infectious diseases on infant mortality. The National Center for Health Statistics mortality data for 1980 contains information on as many as 20 causes of death for a given individual. Using these data, we found that infectious diseases contributed to 12.5% of all infant deaths and to almost 400,000 years of potential life lost because of infant deaths. Infectious diseases contributed to 9% of deaths of low birth weight infants and to more than 18% of all deaths in the postneonatal period. Compared with white infants, a higher proportion of nonwhite infants died of causes related to infectious diseases. For black infants, the mortality rate related to infectious diseases was twice that for white infants. These data indicate that infectious diseases still are a major contributor to infant mortality, one of the 15 areas targeted for prevention by the federal government, and the data suggest that programs for reducing infant mortality should place increased emphasis on preventing infectious diseases.

Jason JM, Jarvis WR

Pediatrics 1987 Sep;80(3):335-41

PMID: 3627883