Birth outcomes and infant mortality are key indicators of community well-being.


The Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) was established to address the disproportionately high rates of infant mortality among African Americans in Wisconsin. 

We know we can - and must - do better.

2011-2015-im-wi-graphic_finalSource: Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH), 2011-2015

Defining infant mortality

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child in the first year of life. It is measured using the infant mortality rate: the number of deaths of babies less than one-year-old, per 1,000 live births.

Why infant mortality matters

Infant deaths take an emotional and financial toll not just on grieving families, but on the community as a whole.

Infant mortality is a complex issue.  Poor infant health outcomes expose differences in access to health care and health information. They also expose differences in the social, economic, and physical environments that drive health outcomes for babies, mothers, and families. Infant mortality is an important indicator of community well-being,  because factors that influence health are reflected in how healthy a community’s youngest members are.

Wisconsin has one of the worst African American/White disparities in infant mortality in the nation

Wisconsin has made important strides in the health of mothers and babies, but these improvements have not reached all communities. Though overall rates of infant mortality have been declining in Wisconsin, disparities persist. 

In 2013, Wisconsin had the second worst African American/White disparity in infant mortality in the United States. From 2011-2015, babies born to African American mothers in Wisconsin were nearly three times more likely to die before their first birthday than babies born to White mothers.


What Wisconsin's Data Show

In 2013, Wisconsin had the second worst African American/White infant mortality disparity in the United States. 

Source: Mathews et al. (2015), National Center for Health Statistics

Over time, Wisconsin has seen decreases in overall rates, but disparities persist for African Americans. 2011-2015 data show that the infant mortality rate for Wisconsin's African American mothers was 13.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 4.8 deaths for White mothers.

Source: Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health (WISH), 2000-2015

The Root Causes of Infant Mortality

For babies to be born healthy and stay healthy, mothers and families need to have access to quality health care and physical, social, and economic environments that promote health throughout their lifetimes.

The disparity we see in the infant mortality rate is a reflection of more than just a difference in the health care that African American mothers receive. In 2011, the LIHF Communications Workgroup created an illustration of some of the root causes that contribute to higher infant mortality rates for African Americans.

lihf root causes

For more reading on the underlying factors that contribute to disparities in infant mortality, visit our approach page.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Empty Cradles Series

In 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel began a series called "Empty Cradles" focused on the city and region's high infant mortality rate. This award winning series highlights many of the complex contributors to these statistics and examines the health care, economic, and human costs of infant deaths in our communities.

Visit the Empty Cradles series to listen to stories from mothers and families, read articles, view additional data, and learn more about the issues.