INFANT MORTALITY; More Good News

Article excerpt

CITY OF HOPE

Raising Our Children

The trend line looks like a ski slope.

But unlike so many trends these days, this downward move is positive.

It shows the gradual decline in the rate of infant mortality in Duval County since 2005, a rate that was confirmed by an epidemiologist for the state of Florida.

Infant mortality refers to death before the first birthday. The rate is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births.

The reaction of the relatively small group that has been leading the campaign against these needless deaths for years could be summed up by Carol Brady, executive director of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition Inc.

"We are very proud!" she exclaimed in an e-mail.

The lower rate in 2009 means that about 40 more babies celebrated their first birthdays compared to the rate in 2005, Brady said.

So what has caused the improvement? Brady cannot prove cause and effect.

BETTER INFORMATION

But the easiest and quickest way to save young lives is to reduce sleep-related deaths by providing better information to parents. For instance, babies should not be allowed to sleep on their stomachs or with adults in bed.

This reduction in sleep-related deaths produced about two-thirds of the improvement in infant mortality, Brady reported.

She offers four other possible causes of the improvement:

- There have been consistent increases in the proportion of high-risk pregnant women who received education and support through Healthy Start. The implication for the state: Don't cut funding.

- More women entered prenatal care earlier.

- There were fewer underweight pregnant women.

- More moms are breast-feeding.

Brady hopes a study will be led by the state health department in concert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to produce a more detailed analysis. …