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For Release: September 10, 2009 – 
Contact: Pamela Williams 
Office of Communications 
405/271-5601

Improving Birth Outcomes and Reducing Infant Mortality is Conference Focus
Health Department Announces Initiative:  Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility

In an average week in Oklahoma eight babies die before reaching their first birthday. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the National Center for Health Statistics, Oklahoma ranked 41st in the United States for infant deaths in 2006. With that in mind, the Southwest Region Healthy Start Conference, Sept.14-16 in Oklahoma City, is featuring national and local speakers to address “Improving Birth Outcomes for Our Communities.”

At the conference OSDH will be introducing a new statewide initiative, Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, and website resource pages to provide information to the public to help improve birth outcomes and reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma. The website information can be found at www.health.ok.gov.
The Healthy Start Regional Conference is being held in September, which is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, to assist communities in improving the health of infants in the southwest region. The conference will cover topics such as immunizations and pregnancy, preconception health (parents’ health before pregnancy), and attitudes and behavior among men about contraception.

Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (IMR) has consistently remained above the national rate since 1992. According to OSDH, the state’s IMR of 8.0 deaths per 1,000 live births for 2006 is no better than the national average of 8.0 achieved over 10 years earlier. The 2006 African American IMR of 15.8 is more than twice the rate for white IMR of 6.7. In addition, statistics show that the Native American IMR of 10.6 is higher than for whites.

The top three causes of infant death in Oklahoma include disorders related to low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces), short gestation (less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy), congenital defects (medical condition present at birth), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“This is part of a statewide initiative to improve the health of Oklahomans by starting with the babies in Oklahoma and their caregivers. Given our increased understanding of prenatal care and the importance or a mother’s health during pregnancy, it is unacceptable that Oklahoma babies are dying at a rate higher than the majority of other States, and that we have continued to see a disparity between Native American and African American infant mortality rates compared with white rates in Oklahoma,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

The website was designed so that family members and friends, employers and community organizations can find something they can do to actively support services and resources for families. The key messages include:
• Being healthy before and between pregnancies greatly improves the chances of having a healthy baby
• Having a full-term pregnancy (about 40 weeks) and breastfeeding offers a baby the best start in life
• Getting tested and treated, if needed, for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) promotes a healthy pregnancy and birth
• Recognizing the signs and getting help for postpartum depression can improve health for both mother and baby
• Placing a baby on the back to sleep and avoiding exposure to second hand smoke decreases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that Oklahoma babies are born strong and healthy with a life full of potential. We can make improvements in Oklahoma to help reduce our infant deaths and this campaign is a first step,” Dr. Cline said.

Partners in the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility public health campaign are: Central Oklahoma Healthy Start, Coalition for Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates, County Health Departments, Indian Health Services, March of Dimes, OU Medical Center, Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board, Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Additional partners are: Oklahoma Family Network, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Rotary Club of Stillwater, Safe Kids Coalition, The State Chamber, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Tulsa Health Department and Tulsa Healthy Start, Oklahoma Turning Point, Oklahoma Health Equity Campaign, and the Wichita, Caddo and Delaware Tribes Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Program.

For more information about the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility campaign to reduce infant mortality, go to www.health.ok.gov  or call OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service at 405/271-4480.

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