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5 Priorities for Reducing Infant Mortality

October 6, 2014
In the U.S., the number of babies who die in their first year of life is declining, with an all-time low 6.4 infant mortality rate (6.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births) reported in 2009, according to the most recent available data.

Yet there are persistent disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities and geographic areas and to address these disparities, Secretary Sebelius recently announced the first-ever national strategy to address infant mortality. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is collaborating with teams from 13 southern states, and other private and public partners to support efforts to reduce infant mortality.

The partnership will share best practices and lessons learned while focusing on improvements in five priority areas, including:

1. Reduce Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks: Inducing labor before 39 weeks is associated with newborn health complications. Labor should only be induced for medical reasons.

2. Increase Safe Sleep Practices: Babies sleep safest when placed on their backs in a crib, play yard or bassinet that meets current safety standards. Babies should have a separate, safe sleep space near where family members sleep for at least the first six months. The baby should sleep on a firm mattress that is designed for an infant and fits snugly in the crib. Keep all bedding items and toys out of the crib while baby is sleeping, including quilts, loose blankets, soft or pillow-like bumpers, pillows or stuffed animals.

3. Enhance Perinatal Regionalization Reduction: Hospitals in a state or region must work together to ensure that every pregnant woman and newborn has access to the appropriate level of medical care that they need. This means parents-to-be can be sure that there are hospitals readily available that can provide everything from a basic, uncomplicated delivery to those that can serve mothers and babies with the most complex, critical problems. Very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants should be delivered at highly specialized hospitals, most commonly designated as level III hospitals.

4. Increase Smoking Cessation among Pregnant Women: A pregnant smoker is at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy. Babies born to mothers who smoke have a lower average birth weight, an increased rate of premature birth, and are at greater risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies of nonsmokers. Studies show that women who quit smoking early in their pregnancies can reduce the risk of damage to their babies. Even quitting in the last month of pregnancy can help baby by increasing the amount of oxygen available to during delivery.

5. Expand Access to Interconception Care: The single best predictor of preterm birth is a prior preterm birth. Mothers who have had a previous pregnancy that ended in an adverse outcome should consult with their health care provider before planning to get pregnant again.

More information and additional resources can be found at (Source: Maternal and Child Health Bureau)