Infant mortality rate declines in county

Published 12:13 pm Friday, December 30, 2011

The infant mortality rate in Escambia County is on a slow, but steady decline and members of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County are looking at ways to bring those statistics down.

Ruth Harrell, chairman of the group, said the statistics have been staggering.

“In Escambia County, the data for 2010 shows five babies died before their first birthday,” Harrell said. “We need to look at what we can do to prevent those deaths.”

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With committee members ranging from pediatricians and nurses to senior services providers, a decision to work in areas of prevention was made.

“Three of the eight deaths reported in a two-year period were the result of co-sleeping,” Harrell said. “That is completely preventable and we need to take steps to help new mothers learn how to prevent that kind of death.”

Escambia County’s newest mothers have some resources already available to them that is moving toward preventing co-sleeping deaths, Harrell said.

“We have the Pack-N-Play program here through the hospital that provides sleeping accommodations for infants,” Harrell said. “That program is going well.”

Throughout the meeting, committee members discussed issues surrounding longer gestation, the advantages of breastfeeding and other issues that affect the well being of infants.

“We need to offer support services for new mothers, but prevention seems to be our top priority,” Harrell said. “We need to look at ways to address safe-sleeping, encouraging breast feeding and getting the message out to those who will benefit from that information.”
During the coming months, Harrell said the Coalition will be active in providing information to new or expectant mothers that could be at risk for low-birth weight babies or whose new-borns fall into a high-risk category for infant mortality issues.

“We have a job to do,” Harrell said. “It is our plan to make sure that we provide needed information to physicians, expectant parents, new parents and even grandparents when it comes to preventing infant deaths.”

In the 2010 Kids Count book, statistics for 2008 and 2009 showed eight deaths of infants in Escambia County. That number reflected a 9.8 percent rate for 2008 and an 11.4 percent death rate in 2009 — both based on percentages of live-births per 1,000 in the county.

“We need to get that percentage down,” Harrell said. “We have a lot of work to do.”