INFANT MORTALITY; Slow Progress

Article excerpt

The number of needless deaths to infants declined again in 2007 in Duval County, continuing a slow but welcome downward trend.

Nevertheless, the area's rate of infant mortality continues to exceed state and national rates, according to a press release from Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

And racial disparities continue, as black babies die at twice the rate of others.

The same trend was noted in neighboring counties.

The issue, like Jacksonville's high murder rate, was basically under the radar until it received more coverage. It was political anathema.

In addition, an in-depth study from Jacksonville Community Council Inc. raised the awareness level.

Suddenly, Mayor John Peyton and former City Council President Daniel Davis spoke about the challenges publicly.

This was significant, since the issues involving infant mortality are complex, subtle and intertwined with other social, educational and economic issues.

One of the risk factors for infant mortality involves race. Highly educated black women with all the apparent advantages still experience overly high rates of infant mortality.

One key is to provide support to childbearing women during pregnancy. Another is to provide good health care before a woman becomes pregnant.

But there are ways to make a few dramatic reductions in deaths to infants before age 1. …