Infant Mortality Rates Remain High in Some Counties

The infant mortality rate has consistently decreased in California in the last two decades, but a handful of counties in the state have rates that remain higher than average.

Mendocino and Fresno counties had infant mortality rates that were nearly twice the statewide average in 2013-15, the latest years for which data is available.

Statewide during that time period, the infant mortality rate was 4.5 deaths among children under 1 per 1,000 live births, according to the figures posted by Kidsdata from the California Department of Public Health and the National Center for Health Statistics.

But in Mendocino County, the rate was 8.1. In Fresno County, it was 7.8.

Meanwhile, in other parts of California, including several affluent Bay Area counties and Orange County, the rate was significantly lower than the statewide average.

Between 2013-15, the infant mortality rate was 2.8 in San Mateo County; 3.1 in San Francisco County; 3.2 in Sonoma, Santa Clara and Orange counties; and 3.3 in Marin County. Interestingly, the rate was also low—2.9—in Imperial County, a lower-income county with a high percentage of immigrants.

Statistics for several California counties with small populations, including much of the rural, northern portion of the state, are not available on Kidsdata.

Infant mortality rates can be indicators of public health in general, because they often reflect access to medical care and socioeconomic conditions, according to Kidsdata.

Statewide, the infant mortality rate has declined from 5.9 in 1996-98, the oldest data set available on Kidsdata.

*Kidsdata and California Health Report are both funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.

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