Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate: a Top Priority in Prince George’s County

Infant mortality has been an ongoing concern studied by governments and the health care field. Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. It is sad, tragic, and it can often be prevented.

Infant mortality rates vary a great deal across this country; they are as low as 4.2 in one state and as high as 9.3 in another. The United States’ overall infant mortality rate is currently 5.9 (approximately 6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births each year).

The good news is that U.S. infant death rates have steadily decreased over the past 60 years, with the most significant drop occurring within the past 10 years. This reduction is mostly due to the reduction in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The bad news is that the U.S. still ranks the highest in infant deaths among all developed countries. And, closer to home: Prince George’s County infant mortality rates are much higher than the national average.

Prince George’s County infant mortality rates are too high

Maryland’s infant mortality rate is 6.3; ranking 35th among all U.S. States. Prince George’s County infant mortality rate is about 8.9, higher than the national average of 5.9 and higher than other counties in Maryland too. These are not distinctions that we want.

Prince George’s County cares about its children and families. Making sure infants make it past their first birthdays is a high priority. We have many programs and resources available. While we can’t eliminate every risk factor, there are many that can be eliminated.

These are the leading causes of infant mortality

  • Serious birth defects
  • Born too small or too early with low weights
  • SIDS
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Complications at birth
  • Injuries/accidents

There are also associated factors. Research has shown that an expectant mother’s age is also a factor in babies born with low weights. Women under age 25, including teens, as well as women over the age of 40, have high higher incidences of infant mortality. There are disparities in death rates are based on family incomes (low-income families have higher risk factors) and race. African Americans have the highest rates of infant mortality than any other race. All of these factors and disparities are being researched to determine what intervention and preventive practices can help.

Prince George’s County is taking action and making the lives of infants a priority:

  • Prince George’s Healthcare Action Coalition: a community-powered network and forum for collaboration to improve health care in Prince George County with more than 70 organizations and health care professionals. Its Infant Mortality Work Group sets yearly goals that work toward reducing infant deaths.
  • The Bright Beginnings Infant Mortality Reduction Program: a Prince George’s County Health Department prenatal and post-delivery service for under served pregnant women and their babies. Their services include in-home visits, birthing classes, parenting training, case management, networking among mothers-to-be and referrals to human and social services. They also offer Infant Mortality Reduction toolkit, free pregnancy testing, medical care for mother and child, and other related services.
  • Prince George’s County Health and Human Services/Maternity Health Services: services to help make it easier for pregnant women to get important prenatal care regardless of their ability to pay, including sliding fee, medical care during pregnancy and after the baby is born, hospital delivery placement, referrals to child health programs, family planning education, home visits, assistance to enroll eligible women in a free health insurance for women with low and moderate incomes and their children.
  • The Prince George’s Child Resource Center’s own Healthy Families Prince George’s helps families in the county through home visiting services that focus on positive parent and child interaction with weekly visits, depression screenings and home safety checklists, family education on health and nutrition, child development and safety for children. The Resource Center also has an Early Childhood Mental Health program and Family Support Center program.

What can you do, and what can we do together?

If each of us does our part to spread information and help parents get the support they need, we can help reduce infant mortality.

Here’s what you can do and we do together –

  • Talk to expectant women, and talk to them before they are pregnant if you have that relationship.
  • Tell about the importance of early prenatal care (teen mothers and mothers over age 50 tend to start prenatal care in the second and third trimesters).
  • Share information and resources available to help these women and their families get access to prenatal care, health care, and food assistance if they need it.
  • Connect them with programs, such as Healthy Families Prince George’s.
  • Educate expectant and new mothers on safe practices after birth. The majority of infants’ deaths after birth is due to SIDS or injuries. Giving expectant and new mothers information on safe sleeping practices for infants and safety measures to keep their children from injury is also key to reducing infant mortality.
  • Help families experiencing high stress. Refer them to Healthy Families Prince George’s. Supporting families in the first few years of a new baby’s life is what the program is all about.