Infant Mortality Rates Decline Slightly But Ongoing Efforts Needed
Rate Remains High for African American Infants; September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month
MADISON-Even as updated data reported during Infant Mortality Awareness Month shows some decline in the infant mortality rate in Wisconsin during the past two decades, state health officials today affirmed their ongoing commitment to achieving significant reductions in the future.
"Our work with statewide partners to bring down this still unacceptably high infant mortality rate goes on all year long," said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. "During Infant Mortality Awareness Month we pause and reflect on our progress to date, but this important work continues on a daily basis."
The overall infant mortality rate in Wisconsin declined from 8.0 to 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, based on three-year averages, but the gains did not fully extend to minority groups. For 2008-2010, African American infants were 2.7 times as likely to die before reaching their first birthday as an infant born to a white woman.
In 2010, 393 Wisconsin infants died during the first year of life: 247 were white, 95 were African American, 29 were Hispanic/Latino, six were American Indian, eight were Laotian and Hmong, and eight were of other race or unknown origin.
Health officials are involved in several programs around the state that target different causes of infant mortality, Anderson noted. These include:
- Promoting breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for babies;
- Encouraging women to quit smoking through programs like the Strive to Quit initiative for eligible individuals enrolled in Medicaid, and asking others to reduce second-hand smoke near pregnant women and infants;
- Working with HMOs in southeast Wisconsin to promote and support medical homes for high-risk pregnant women to ensure a more comprehensive approach to care, including care coordination and home visits;
- Partnering with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF), a $10 million multi-year effort to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes;
- Working with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care, and other partners to encourage woman to avoid scheduling induced deliveries or cesarean sections before 39 weeks of pregnancy when not medically necessary, to improve infant health outcomes;
- Collaborating with the Department of Children and Families on home visiting throughout the state;
- Working with partners statewide to promote safe sleep environments for infants, emphasizing messages like "back to sleep" and "sharing a room, but not a bed";
- Promoting text4baby, a free text message program for pregnant women and new mothers that sends text messages on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and early childhood health during the first year of their child's life. Participants sign up by texting BABY (Bebe in Spanish) to 511411.
For information on programs and resources to reduce infant mortality and improve infant health: www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/healthybirths/.