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Infant mortality at a low

Some good news was announced Monday: Infant mortality rates reached an all-time low in Mississippi in 2014.

The Mississippi Department of Public Health reported the downward trend with an all-time low of 8.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

A greater focus on educating residents that babies need to sleep in safe environments, on their backs, in cribs and not next to mom and dad is helping keep the rate down.

Mississippi’s 2014 infant mortality rate showed a 15 percent decrease from 2013 and a 28 percent decrease since 2005 when it was 11.4 per 1,000 live births.

Unfortunately there is a gap between white and black babies still. The 2014 black mortality rate was 11.2 per 1,000 births versus the white mortality rate of 5.9. That means we must do a better job of education across all segments of the population.

“Mississippi continues to have one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the United States,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. “Thanks in part to special funding provided by the state legislature, Mississippi is doing more than ever to address the issue of infant mortality by working with partners to reduce preterm births, eliminate tobacco use by and around pregnant women, and prevent sleep-related deaths.”

Another effort that is being blitzed statewide is helping reduce the infant mortality rate. Most hospitals throughout the state have signed a pledge to stop allowing early elective deliveries, usually around the 39 week mark, unless they are medically necessary.

Pre-term babies is the leading cause of infant mortality in the state, so hospitals getting on board to reduce that stress should be commended. And it is not just being appreciated by us residents, it is noted nationwide. The March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Award recently was awarded to the state for successfully lowering the preterm birth rate by 11 percent since 2009.

“We know that much work must still be done, but Mississippi has the potential to continue our successful trend,” Currier said.  “We continue to work to improve our birth outcomes through outreach, education and improved access to care.”

Congratulations to Mississippians for bettering the odds for children, increasing education and making the state a safer place in which to grow up.