Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt Launches National Campaign to Reduce Black Infant Mortality

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt announced the launch of Know What to Do for Life, a public education campaign to increase awareness about the risk factors associated with infant mortality in the African-American community.

"We have made significant strides in reducing infant mortality over the past few decades, but more can be done," he says. "Know What to Do for Life will bring awareness to mothers and caretakers, providing them with important information for healthy babies."

African-American infants are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday than White infants. Many of the conditions and factors that increase the risk of infant mortality disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks gestation) is the leading cause of death and developmental disability for African-American infants. African-American infant deaths due to low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and premature birth are nearly four times that for White infants.

As part of the Know What to Do for Life campaign, HHS is releasing new radio and print public service advertisements featuring Gospel recording artists Nicole Mullen and Micah and Heidi Stampley. The PSAs encourage audiences to learn more about sudden infant death syndrome and the risk factors for low birth weight and premature delivery. Another key component of the campaign is a toolkit for community and faith-based organizations that will be distributed during the summer of 2005.

The campaign uses simple preventive messages aimed at fathers and caretakers as well as expectant mothers:

* Pregnant women should begin seeing a health provider as soon as they think they are pregnant, and should go to all of their prenatal care appointments;

* Parents should place babies on their backs to sleep, should not put babies to sleep with more than one layer of clothing, and should not put stuffed toys in the crib;

* Expectant mothers should not drink, smoke or use other drugs before or during pregnancy and after giving birth; and

* Expectant mothers should learn about factors that affect birth outcomes, such as proper nutrition, and should seek help for chronic illnesses and other medical problems. …