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Raising awareness of infant mortality

Mon September 21, 2015

The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) is joining the Illinois Department of Public Health, EverThrive Illinois, and other healthcare partners throughout Illinois and the United States to raise awareness during September of the high rate of infant mortality.  September is National Infant Mortality Month and has been sponsored since 1991 by the National Healthy Start Association.  

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. Unfortunately, over 23,000 infants died during 2013 in the United States. The loss of a baby remains a sad reality for many parents and takes a serious toll on the health and well-being of families.

Fortunately, most newborns grow and thrive. However, for every 1,000 babies born in the United States, 6 die during their first year. This figure, 6 deaths for every 1,000 births is referred to as the infant mortality rate. "The infant mortality rate is commonly accepted as a measure of the general health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also affect infant mortality rates," said Karen Ayala, DCHD Executive Director. 

The U.S. infant mortality rate in 2013 was 5.96, and overall Illinois ranks 30th among the 50 states with an infant mortality rate of 6.48 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012.  Disparities still exist; there are differences in infant mortality by age, race, and ethnicity. 

The DuPage County infant mortality rate has decreased by 12% over the last five years, from 5.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 4.4 in 2013. While the preliminary 2013 infant mortality rate appears to have increased from 2012, it stills remains the second lowest recorded in the county since 1991, and is below the Healthy People 2020 national health goal of 6.0 set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010.

The Health Department promotes several community-based maternal and child health programs that focus on the reduction and prevention of infant mortality, racial disparities, and low birth weight.  These programs, such as Better Birth Outcomes (Great Start), Nurse-Family Partnership, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and case management programs, provide outreach and coordination of health services toward goals of a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby, and healthy early childhood.  Outreach is prioritized for households with risk factors or special needs, with over 40,000 women and children participating in programs to reduce premature death and improve health outcomes.  

A healthy pregnancy begins before conception and continues with appropriate prenatal care and addressing health problems if they arise.  For questions about the Health Department's maternal and child health services, please call (630) 682-7400.

Medical advances over the last 60 years have helped save babies and dramatically reduced infant mortality. However, the United States still has a relatively poor global standing compared with other developed nations. A main reason for this is because the United States has a high percentage of preterm births which contributes to a higher infant mortality rate.

The good news is we can help reduce infant mortality among babies born preterm by addressing key risk factors such as prenatal smoking that contribute to low birthweight, preterm delivery, preterm-related death, and SIDS. Also, parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death by taking action to create safe sleep environments.

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