Infant mortality at a historic low in Forsyth County

Infant mortality at a historic low in Forsyth County
November 05
00:00 2015

By Mayeesa Mitchell

For The Chronicle

Forsyth County’s infant mortality rate decreased in 2014 to 6.4 infants per 1,000 live births, according to a report released by the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

Infant mortality, which calculates infants who are born alive and die before the age of one, is considered one of the most important indicators of a community’s health.

“The health of the community is measured by infant mortality,” said Rodd Smith, Director of Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition. “Whenever you have more babies dying, you have to ask yourself why.”

The matter of questioning why can be resolved by examining the three leading causes of infant mortality. They are: prematurity and low birth weight, birth defects, and other conditions originating in the perinatal period.

Although the three largest factors can be measured, the reasons these factors develop are a result of a variety of environmental, cultural and health influences.

“We know that many factors that contribute to infant mortality are societal and complex,” said Marlon Hunter, Forsyth County Health Director. “From a health perspective, we want women to achieve optimal health before they become pregnant in order to improve birth outcomes.”

Unfortunately, many African-American women do not have access to the proper prenatal care and are subject to additional stress levels that can have a negative effect on pregnancy.

This imbalance in prenatal care has resulted in a disparity in birth outcomes.

According to the report, the infant death rate for African-Americans was 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the death rate for white infants was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. This means that for every white infant that dies, two African-American infants die.

“The disparity is there and has existed for years,” said Smith.

Although the disparity still exists, it has improved substantially. Much of the improvement in the last 20 years is a result of effective programs put in place throughout the county.

“Many of the services provided by the medical community in Forsyth County leads to improved care for women, particularly for the time before and after pregnancy,” said Smith.

One such program being put in place is by the Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition. Over the next three years, they will be increasing their efforts in helping to decrease infant mortality by addressing issues related to reducing preterm birth, improving mental health services for women, and stressing the importance of individuals of reproductive ages developing reproductive life plans.

The Coalition will work in coordination with the Department of Public Health, concerned citizens and health and human service professionals to execute this plan.

“More and more we are learning that infant mortality is a community problem and community problems need community solutions and investment,” said Hunter.

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