Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Infant Mortality

Recent Performance

This trend is mixed or inconclusive.

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is a measure of the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, and reflects in part the overall health of a community. While it directly measures the well-being of infants, children, and pregnant women, it implies broader public health concerns beyond maternal and child health, such as access to medical services, and poor environmental and socioeconomic conditions.

Since 2000, the Erie County infant mortality rate has fluctuated from a low of 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 to a high of 11.3 deaths in 2002. In 2012, the rate was 8.0, which was slightly higher than Pennsylvania’s rate of 7.0. Historically, the Erie County infant mortality rate for Blacks generally far exceeds the rate observed for Whites, although in 2012 the rate for Blacks (5.0) was lower than the rate for Whites (7.5).

In the United States, about two-thirds of infant deaths occur in the first four weeks after birth and are due mostly to health problems of the infant or of the pregnancy, such as pre-term delivery or birth defects. About one-third of infant deaths occur after the first four weeks and are often influenced by social or environmental factors, such as exposure to cigarette smoke or problems with access to health care. There were a total of 135 infant deaths in Erie County from 2008 to 2012, and 94 (70%) of these deaths occurred during the first four weeks of life (i.e., the neonatal period)

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the number of infant deaths less than one year of age per 1,000 live births.

Why is this important?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the infant mortality rate is often used as an indicator to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants. There are obvious differences in infant mortality by age, race, and ethnicity; for instance, the mortality rate for non-Hispanic black infants is more than twice that of non-Hispanic white infants.

Fortunately, most newborns grow and thrive. However, for every 1,000 babies that are born, six die during their first year. Most of these babies die because they are:
* Born with a serious birth defect.
* Born too small and too early (i.e., preterm birth; birth before 37 weeks gestation).
* Victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
* Affected by maternal complications of pregnancy.
* Victims of injuries (e.g., suffocation).

These top five leading causes of infant mortality together accounted for 58% of all infant deaths in the United States in 2011.

The Details

“The Basics” tells the story.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator reports subcategories based on race/ethnicity with the following breakdowns: All races, White, Black, Hispanic (of any race).

Peer Areas

The data are available for Erie County and the state of Pennsylvania.


There are annual updates of this EVS indicator as well as three-year summary updates in Erie County Department of Health reports.


Other Related Data

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