Missouri To Raise Infant Mortality Awareness
More than 600 Missouri babies born in 2007 will never celebrate their first birthdays. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services wants to change that by drawing attention to the problem during National Infant Mortality Awareness Month in September.
"We have made much progress in many areas of mother and infant health, helping more babies make it through that first critical year in life," said Karen Schenk, program coordinator with the state health department's Bureau of Genetics and Healthy Childhood. "But we need to do more to ensure the survival of more infants, and those efforts are best served through education."
According to state health department provisional statistics, the infant mortality rate (death of an infant less than a year old) increased slightly from 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006 to 7.5 deaths per 1,000 in 2007. However, the real concern is the disparity in infant mortality rates between whites and minorities is widening. Death rates for white infants dropped slightly between 2006 and 2007 from 6.0 to 5.9. African-Americans rates increased from 14.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006 to 16.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2007. Leading causes of infant deaths for all races include conditions arising in the perinatal period, congenital anomalies and unintentional injuries.
Officials are most concerned about the dramatic rise in infant mortality rates due to suffocation related to bed sharing. Those numbers more than doubled from just 20 in 2006 to 43 in 2007. The state health department promotes the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that state infants should:
* Be placed on their backs for sleep every time
* Sleep in the same room with their mother but alone in their own bed
* Sleep in cribs without soft objects like bumper pads and blankets
* Sleep on a firm crib mattress with the mattress covered only by a sheet
Education has been key to a decrease in the number of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) deaths. Those numbers decreased in the state from 48 in 2006 to 24 in 2007. Officials attribute the drop to the continued education of parents and caregivers on "back to sleep," making sure babies are placed on their backs for every sleep.
"We know that mothers want the best for their newborn babies," said Schenk. "We believe that if those new moms have the information they need, we'll see infant mortality rates continue to drop."
Currently, the state health department's Bureau of Genetics and Healthy Childhood and Office of Minority Health along with the Healthy Start Coalitions in St. Louis, Kansas City and the Bootheel have programs to provide home visiting services to pregnant women and their infants to educate them on the importance of early prenatal care, proper nutrition, not smoking, not drinking alcohol or using drugs prior to getting pregnant and during pregnancy, birth spacing and infant safety.