New state data released by the Department of Public Health today showed

the number of black infants who died before their first birthday was 50 percent less than the previous year.

Data released for 2008 and 2009 showed the lowest death rate for Boston’s youngest black residents in 20 years, according to reports.

In 2009, 16 black infants died in the city. Reports show that the previous year, the death rate reached 30.

“We are cautiously optimistic that all of the work we have done to eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes is now beginning to bear fruit,” said Mayor Thomas Menino. “We must remain vigilant in our effort to assure that all women have healthy births and that their infants have a healthy start in life.”

The black infant mortality rate fell to 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009, compared to 14.6 deaths in 2008.

The infant mortality rate for Boston overall was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009, down from 7.2 in 2008.

The highest black infant mortality rate on record was 19 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1992, a year when the white infant mortality rate was 5.9 deaths, according to reports

The state report, called the 2009 Birth Report, also found that Boston's teenage births were down as well, dropping to 10 births per 1,000 teens in 2009 from 12.3 births per 1,000 teens in 2008.

Since 1996, the teen birth rate for 13-to-17 year olds has declined by 56 percent.

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