Alabama health officials say preventable child deaths are declining.
State Health Officer Don Williamson says about one-third of all deaths involving Alabama children under 18 are considered preventable. Figures from the state health department show the number of preventable child deaths declined from 387 in 2000 to 278 in 2012.
Williamson says a 1997 state law created a child death review system to look at all unexplained or unexpected child deaths and develop prevention strategies and recommendations.
Alabama's infant mortality rate declined in 2013 and the infant mortality rate for black infants fell to its lowest level ever.
The state Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the 2013 rate for all infants was 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That was down from 8.9 recorded in 2012.
The department says the infant mortality rate among black babies was 12.6, which was the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1950. The rate among white infants rose from 6.6 in 2012 to 6.9 in 2013.
Alabama is launching a program called "State of Champions" to try to reduce the state's high infant mortality rate.
State Health Officer Don Williamson and Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday it will take time to reduce Alabama's rate, which is traditionally in the top three among states, but they are determined to do it.
Alabama health officials investigating a cluster of respiratory illnesses say the total has increased to 10, but they are closing the investigation.
State Health Officer Don Williamson said Thursday the cases are unrelated and all have reasonable explanations. He said health officials took extraordinary caution because of two new viruses - one in China and another in the Middle East. But they found no evidence of new or unexpected viruses or bacteria in the cluster of cases in southeast Alabama.
State Health Officer Don Williamson told Alabama lawmakers that money will be available to fund Alabama's Medicaid program at a minimal level through 2014.
But Williamson told a joint meeting of the House and Senate General Fund budget committees Wednesday he did not know where the money would come from after 2014 to run the health insurance program for the economically disadvantaged.
Williamson is also the interim director of the Alabama Medicaid Program.
State Health Officer Don Williamson says Alabama's flu season started earlier than a year ago and there are more cases. But he said it's not out of line with some of the busiest years during the last decade.