Memphis infant mortality rate, formerly highest in the nation, drops by nearly a third

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The infant mortality rate in Memphis, formerly the highest in the nation, has dropped by nearly a third.

A decade ago, babies born in Memphis and surrounding Shelby County were statistically more likely to die in the first year of their lives than any other populous county in the U.S.

The Shelby County health department made saving babies its goal, enlisting help from national and community organizations, social workers, faith-based groups, businesses and hospitals. They sought to improve what experts call the "social determinants" of health, including education, income, living conditions and stress.

It appears to be working. Shelby County's infant mortality rate dropped by nearly a third en route to its lowest recorded level in 2011.

One key to the improvement has been pinpointing at-risk mothers and giving them intense attention, education and counseling during and after pregnancy.

Tennessee has the 6th highest infant mortality rate in the U.S., according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Meanwhile, Colorado has the 12th lowest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to the Colorado Health Foundation’s Health Report Card.

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