4. Priority Area: Maternal and Infant Health

State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) 2021-2025



Keeping infants healthy starts with making sure women get high-quality care during pregnancy and improving women’s health in general. After birth, strategies that focus on increasing breastfeeding rates and promoting vaccinations and developmental screenings are key to improving infants’ health. Interventions that encourage safe sleep practices and correct use of car seats can also help keep infants safe.

Improving the well-being of mothers, infants, and children is an important public health goal. Their well-being determines the health of the next generation and can help predict future public health challenges for families, communities, and the health care system (- Healthy People 2030).


The ADH’s partners will develop and implement strategies to reduce risks related to infant/maternal mortalities and the disparities by race/ethnicity in Arkansas.


Outcome Measures
Priority Area - Maternal and Infant Health
Goals, Strategies, and Objectives
% Change
SHIP Partners
  • American Cancer Society in Arkansas
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - AR Chapter
  • American Lung Association - AR Chapter
  • Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
  • Arkansas Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Arkansas Department of Health
  • Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Children & Family Services
  • Arkansas Medicaid
  • Arkansas Attorney General
  • Arkansas Children's
  • Arkansas Department of Health (ADH)
  • Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care (AFMC)
  • Arkansas Hospital Association
  • Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association, Inc. (AMDPA)
  • Be Well Arkansas Smoking Cessation Call Center
  • Brothers and Sisters United
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • insurance providers
  • Junior League
  • LAMMICO Medical Malpractice Insurance Company
  • Merck for Mothers
  • State Drug Director    
  • Teen influencers
  • University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) Midsouth
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)
  • Walton Family Foundation
Why Is This Important?

Infant Mortality
Infant mortality is a way of looking at the number of babies who die each year before they reach their first birthday. It is usually defined as the number of babies who die out of every 1,000 babies who are born alive. Infant mortality can be divided into neonatal mortality and post-neonatal mortality. When a newborn baby dies less than 28 days after they are born, it is called neonatal mortality. When babies who are older than 27 days but younger than one year die, it is called post-neonatal mortality. Neonatal and post-neonatal mortality often have different causes, so it can be helpful to look at them one by one.

Why is infant mortality a public health problem?
The death of a baby is a tragedy for any family. High infant mortality also means that there are public health problems in the community that need to be addressed. So, it is important to see what problems cause a high infant mortality rate in a community so that people and organizations can work together to solve those problems and protect the health of the next generation.

How big is the problem of infant mortality?
In 2017, 304 babies died in Arkansas before their first birthdays. The infant mortality rate for that year was 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the national infant mortality rate for the same year which was 5.8. Arkansas’s neonatal mortality rate was 4.6 per 1,000 live births. This was close to the United States neonatal mortality rate, which was 3.9. Arkansas’s post-neonatal mortality rate was 3.5 per 1,000 live births. This was much higher than the United States' post-neonatal mortality rate, which was 1.9.

The two most common causes of neonatal mortality are birth defects and prematurity.

  • A birth defect occurs when a baby is born with an abnormality that needs medical care. Some birth defects are easy for doctors to diagnose, while others call for special medical tests. Examples of special medical tests are the newborn screening tests that all Arkansas babies get at birth using a drop of blood from the baby’s heel. Newborn screening is able to find babies with rare defects in the way their bodies use the nutrition in their food. Often the problem can be solved with a special diet. Other types of birth defects are more obvious. They include abnormalities that require surgery to fix, such as congenital heart defects. Congenital means it was there when the baby was born. Congenital heart defects are the most common cause of fatal birth defects.
  • Prematurity occurs when a baby is born before the 37th week of the pregnancy. A normal pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks. Premature babies are more likely to have serious health problems, because their internal organs, such as their lungs or brains, have not fully developed. So, they may have problems breathing or have bleeding in their brains, which is like a stroke. Premature babies are often very small and have low birth weight.

Some of the top causes of post-neonatal death:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS):
    • Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is when a baby less than 1 year old dies unexpectedly. This includes accidental deaths (strangulation or suffocation in bed), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and deaths with unknown causes. SIDS is the sudden, unexpected death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause even after a complete investigation. SIDS is one type of SUID. Most SUID deaths are preventable and often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleep environment. SUID rates in the United States have been going down since 1992, when parents were first taught to put babies to sleep on their backs. Sadly, SUID still remains a leading cause of infant death in Arkansas. Other things that raise the risk of SUID include being around cigarette smoke either before or after being born, sleeping in the same bed with other people, soft bedding or toys where baby sleeps, and not being breastfe
  • Birth defects
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Murder

Maternal Mortality
Women in the United States are more likely to die from childbirth than women living in other developed countries.1 Healthy People 2030 focuses on preventing pregnancy complications and maternal deaths and helping women stay healthy before, during, and after pregnancy.

Some women have health problems that start during pregnancy, and others have health problems before they get pregnant that could lead to complications during pregnancy. Strategies to help women adopt healthy habits and get health care before and during pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications. In addition, interventions to prevent unintended pregnancies can help reduce negative outcomes for women and infants.

Women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy can have a major impact on infants’ health and well-being. Women who get recommended health care services before they get pregnant are more likely to be healthy during pregnancy and to have healthy babies. Strategies to help pregnant women get medical care and avoid risky behaviors like smoking or drinking alcohol can also improve health outcomes for infants.

Source: Healthy People 2030

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