Friday, June 19, 2009

Do we have what it takes to kick infant mortality to the curb?

A passionate DC government employee, speaking about infant mortality, recently said that too few DC residents appreciate how common these "needless deaths" are.

There is good reason why the deaths were characterized as needless.   The research shows that behavior -- mostly adult behavior -- can reduce the likelihood that a baby will die before age 1.   For example, women can plan pregnancies, taking care to be healthy before they conceive.   Others who live in the household can refrain from smoking at all.   Smoke on clothing can negatively effect babies.   Other behavior, such as placing infants on their back to sleep, rather than on their stomach, can also reduce the chance of early death.   Other things like having a previous premature or low birthweight baby and having children back to back are also risk factors.   (This Web site is the source for this information).

To put this in some context, the infant mortality rate in 2005 was 13.6.   This means that there were 13.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.   And the 2005 rate is up from 2004 following an overall trend down since 1994. (See pages 28 and 29)   DC's rate was double that of some states.   Not good.   And if we unpack this data, as the Department of Health has done, this is what we see:

Though the trends indicate the overall rate of infant mortality in the District is declining, there continues to exist great disparities geographically.   Wards consistently experiencing the highest rates of infant mortality include Wards 2, 5, 7 and 8.   In 2002, for the first time, the infant mortality rate in Ward 8 was not among the top four highest.   In fact, between 2001 and 2002 the infant mortality rate for Ward 8 decreased by 54% from 23.1 to 10.6.   Conversely, between 2001 and 2002, Ward 1 experienced the highest percent increase (130%) in its infant mortality rate from 5.4 in 2001 to 12.4 in 2002.   The significant disparities among population groups as well as geographically warrant further investigation of this issue in the District of Columbia.   (Source)

Because we can reduce infant mortality, the Department of Health is holding a meeting to address the significant problem of infant mortality on July 21.   The meeting is being sponsored by the DC Healthy Start Community Consortium.

There are some materials that will be good prep for the meeting:

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