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For Release: September 2, 2010
Contact:  Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Public Health Groups Seek to Reduce Infant Mortality in Oklahoma

In an effort to make certain that babies born in Oklahoma have the best possible chance for a healthy outcome, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has launched a statewide public information initiative called Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility. More than 20 partner organizations have joined this initiative in a unified attempt to address the numerous issues associated with reducing infant mortality in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate of 8.0 deaths per 1,000 births has consistently remained above the national rate since 1992. The top causes of infant death in Oklahoma include disorders related to low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and short gestation (less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy), congenital defects  (medical condition present at birth), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant. African American and Native American babies in Oklahoma are at particularly higher risk for infant mortality than whites.

As part of the initiative, state health officials are introducing a new toolkit this month that offers information, tips, and resources for anyone interested in helping reduce infant mortality. The kit complements similar resources available on the OSDH Web site. In particular, the toolkit and Web site are targeted to women of childbearing age, as well as friends, family members and partners of pregnant mothers; anyone caring for an infant; health care providers; and others who want to help improve the health of mothers and babies. The launch of the toolkit also corresponds to the national observance of September as Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

“We encourage everyone who wants to learn more about how they can help keep babies healthy and safe to view the Web site and we invite speakers to present the toolkit to their churches, clubs, businesses or other groups,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “Working together, we can reduce the number of families affected by the death of an infant and increase the opportunity for babies born in Oklahoma to have a healthier start in life.”

Among the key messages offered in the toolkit and Web pages are the following:

• Being healthy before and between pregnancies greatly improves the chances of having a healthy baby.
• Having a full-term pregnancy (at least 40 weeks) and breastfeeding offer 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 depression after pregnancy can improve the health for both mother and baby.
• Placing baby on the back to sleep and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke decreases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
• Correctly installing infant car seats and never leaving babies unattended help prevent injuries.
• Learning what to do if a baby will not stop crying may help prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma.

To view the toolkit, become a partner in this initiative, or schedule a presentation in your community, visit the OSDH Web site at http://iio.health.ok.gov, or call OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service at 405-271-4480, or contact your local county health department.   

Partners in the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative are: Community Health Center Inc./Central Oklahoma Healthy Start, Coalition for Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates, Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa, Indian Health Services, March of Dimes, University of Oklahoma 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 Institute for Child Advocacy/ Oklahoma Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, Oklahoma State Department of Health and County Health Departments, Safe Kids Coalition, The State Chamber, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center/ Department of OB/GYN, The Parent Child Center of Tulsa, Turning Point Coalitions, and the Tulsa Health Department/Tulsa Healthy Start.  

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