|Infant mortality rate takes a dive|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Wednesday, 14 September 2011 15:24|
It’s been a year since a group of local health officials formed a task force to reduce the county’s high infant mortality rate, and though the group’s action plan was unveiled this week, new data suggests they’ve gotten a head start.
Florida Department of Health statistics show that Baker County’s infant mortality rate, the number of newborns who die before their first birthday per 1000 live births, dropped 38 percent — from 18.5 to 11.5 — between 2009 and 2010, the latest year for which data is available.
The rate was on a steady decline from 19 in 2005 to 2.5 by 2008, before it jumped back up into the high teens in 2009.
“I believe the consistent effort to educate the community about infant mortality and specifically sleep-related death causes have contributed to the decline,” said Shelley Crawford, a registered nurse on the Baker County Infant Mortality Task Force formed in August, 2010 to respond to a spike in newborn fatalities in 2009.
The infant mortality rate here remained nearly twice as high as the statewide rate of 6.5 deaths per 1000 live births in 2010, however.
Since being created, the task force, which meets quarterly at the county health department, has been compiling and reporting information about factors that contribute to the deaths of newborns, including dangerous sleeping practices, a lack of early and consistent prenatal care, teen pregnancy and obesity.
There were four infant deaths and one fetal death here in 2010. Four of the five babies had mothers with overweight or obese BMIs (body mass indexes) and three of the five pregnancies were conceived less than 12 months after a previous birth, according to preliminary data recently released by the state.
Public health officials say the optimal “baby spacing” period — between birth and conception — is 18 months.
The task force also launched a campaign last May to coincide with Mother’s Day called Moms Matter, which distributed to local churches hand fans listing 100 acts of kindness for expectant mothers.
Its latest effort to spread the word about infant mortality and what can be done to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths is handing out Safe Sleep tent cards to local businesses and organizations containing the ABCs of safe sleeping habits for babies: sleeping alone, on their backs and in a crib.
“Education is key,” said Ms. Crawford. “Public awareness of preventable causes can potentially impact the numbers significantly ... Family members and caregivers having the knowledge to implement something as simple as putting a baby on their back to sleep can make a huge difference.”
The tent cards, provided by the task force and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition of Jacksonville, were also distributed to public health officials September 12 at the monthly meeting of Healthy Baker, Inc., the local nonprofit striving to improve the quality of life and health of local residents.
The task force operates as a subcommittee of Healthy Baker.
The tent cards are apart of the task force’s 2011-12 action plan, which was released that day to coincide with National Infant Mortality Month in September.
During that last five years, 40 percent of all infant deaths were found to be sleep-related, including two of the four deaths last year, states the action plan.
To reduce those incidences, the plan also calls for the health department to distribute safe sleep information in OB (obstetrics) bags given to new mothers receiving services there, with the materials being supplied by Healthy Start.
The agencies are also partnering to began a training program for new or soon-to-be new fathers, which teaches safe sleeping techniques as well as other parenting skills.
The action plan targets six areas in all, including breast feeding, with various activities associated with each area, like “addressing the breast feeding policies of the county’s major employers.”
But much of the ongoing efforts involve applying downward pressure on the county’s high teen pregnancy rate, and particularly repeat teen pregnancies.
To that end, the task force intends to review a faith-based curriculum known as “Our Whole Lives” with local churches, consider options for comprehensive sex education, including information about contraception, to teen parents and implement a curriculum aimed at parents and improving their communication with teens about sex and pregnancy.
The health department is also continuing an abstinence-based sex education curriculum for seventh and eight graders this year. An abstinence-based high school sex ed curriculum has also been funded here through 2016 as part of a University of South Florida study [Editor’s note: See next week’s edition for further information about the study].
“Teen pregnancy will prove the most challenging topic to tackle,” Ms. Crawford said. “The varying opinions on sex education curriculum in our schools, religious views and moral beliefs all play a big part. Our goal is to decrease the teen pregnancy rate, specifically repeat teen pregnancy. The question is how do we do this effectively.”
“Lunch and learns” with local pediatricians are planned in 2012 to increase the number of moms who attend their six-week postpartum visit and funding will be sought for grief counseling to families who have experienced an infant or fetal death.
The full action plan is available at nefhealthystart.org under the “saving babies” section.
|Last Updated on Friday, 16 September 2011 07:48|