ADHS report: Child mortality rate increased 24% in 2020


Eli Kirshbaum


Arizona’s child mortality rate increased by 24% in 2020, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ (ADHS) annual Arizona Child Fatality Review, released on Monday.

Of the 838 total child deaths in the state in 2020, 57% were of natural causes, 6% were homicides, 6% were suicides, and 3% had an undetermined cause of death.


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Despite only affecting infants aged 0-27 days, prematurity was the overall leading cause of death for the entire youth population (207 of the 838 total deaths). Motor vehicle-related deaths increased this year and were the leading cause of death for children aged 5-9 and 10-14 years.

Children aged 15-17 had the highest mortality rates among youth in Arizona in 2020as well as over the last decadefollowed by children aged 1-4.


Image: ADHS


The number of deaths among different racial demographics were reflective of their share of the state population. Hispanic childrenwho account for 45% of the state’s youth populationhad the highest mortality rate of all races/ethnicities at 40%. The next most-represented demographic were white children, who make up 41% of the youth population and accounted for 35% of total deaths.

As has been the case over the last ten years, both Black/African American and American Indian children were overrepresented in the data. Black/African American children accounted for 13% of total deaths despite only representing 6% of the state’s youth population and American Indian children accounted for 10% of all deaths but only make up 5% of this population.


Image: ADHS


Of the total deaths, 232 were deemed “accidents”a 31% increase from 2019. Male children made up 63% of accidental deaths and 39% involved substance use. American Indian children were overrepresented here, accounting for 11% of accidental deaths but only 5% of the total youth population.

The report identified several “risk factors” of accidental deaths including involvement with child protective services (40% of accidental deaths), substance use (39%), and lack of supervision (27%).

The department said 47% of the total deaths were preventable. It says a death was preventable “if the community (education, legislation, etc.) or an individual could reasonably have done something that would have changed the circumstances that led to the child’s death.”

Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of preventable deaths, followed by poisoning and firearm injury. Children aged 15-17 had the largest share of preventable deaths (38%).


Image: ADHS


The report includes several pages of recommendations for avoiding preventable deaths, including strengthening vehicle safety measures, increasing substance abuse education efforts, and implementing more suicide prevention training in schools.

The full list of recommendations begins on page 80 of the report.