In­fant mor­tal­ity in Bal­ti­more at record low

Deaths cut in half among African-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Luke Broad­wa­ter lbroad­wa­ter@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ luke­broad­wa­ter

Fewer ba­bies are dy­ing in Bal­ti­more. Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake and city health of­fi­cials an­nounced Wed­nes­day that Bal­ti­more’s in­fant mor­tal­ity rate reached an all-time low in 2015 — even as the city’s homi­cide rate reached a record high.

The city’s in­fant mor­tal­ity rate has de­clined 38 per­cent since 2009, when of­fi­cials launched an ed­u­ca­tion and out­reach cam­paign called B’more for Healthy Ba­bies.

The de­crease has been most pro­nounced among African-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies, who have seen in­fant deaths cut in half.

“In 2009, Bal­ti­more had the fourth-worst in­fant mor­tal­ity rate in the na­tion,” Raw- lings-Blake said.

“We knew that in or­der to get a dif­fer­ent out­come, we had to take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. ... It’s a strate­gic, grass-roots out­reach.”

The city recorded 128 in­fant deaths in 2009 — a statis­tic health of­fi­cials called “ter­ri­ble.”

In­fant deaths dropped to 92 in 2014 and to 72 last year.

B’more for Healthy Ba­bies, a part­ner­ship led by the city’s health depart­ment and the Fam­ily League of Bal­ti­more, works to de­crease the three lead­ing causes of in­fant death: pre­ma­ture birth, low birth weight and un­safe sleep.

In 2010, the pro­gram launched a “Sleep Safe” cam­paign to en­cour­age par­ents to put their ba­bies to sleep fol­low­ing cer­tain rules: “Alone. On their back. In a crib. Don’t smoke. No ex­cep­tions.”

The city’s 2015 in­fant mor­tal­ity rate was 8.4 per 1,000 live births — a 19 per­cent de­cline from 2014. The pre­vi­ous low of 9.7 deaths per 1,000 live births was recorded in 2012.

“This is the low­est re­ported in­fant mor­tal­ity rate ever in our city,” said Bal­ti­more Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Leana Wen.

B’more for Healthy Ba­bies also in­cludes anti-smok­ing and obe­sity ef­forts, post­par­tum de­pres­sion screen­ings, safe sleep ed­u­ca­tion and free cribs. Moth­ers can re­quest home vis­its from health and so­cial ser­vice providers.

Af­ter a baby is born in a hospi­tal, fam­ily mem­bers are shown an ed­u­ca­tional video on pre­vent­ing in­fant death.

More than 4,000 health and so­cial ser­vices providers have been trained to help re­duce in­fant deaths.

The pro­gram also has worked to de­crease teen preg­nan­cies, of­fi­cials said. Since the pro­gram started, teen birth rates in Bal­ti­more have dropped 36 per­cent.

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