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For Release: September 6, 2011 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - (405) 271-5601

New Programs and Initiatives Underway to Help Reduce Infant Mortality
Oklahoma’s Infant Mortality Rate is 8.5 compared to USA at 6.7

It’s an unfortunate fact that fewer babies survive their first birthday in Oklahoma than in almost any other state in the country. Oklahoma ranks 46th in infant mortality, with 8.5 deaths per 1,000 births compared to the national infant mortality rate of 6.7 deaths per 1,000 births. Alarmingly, the mortality rate for African American babies born in Oklahoma skyrockets at 18.7 deaths per 1,000 births; for American Indian/Alaskan Native babies, the rate is 9.6.

In an effort to provide all babies born in Oklahoma with the best possible opportunities for a healthy outcome, in 2009 the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and more than 20 partner organizations launched a statewide initiative to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate and improve maternal health. This initiative, “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility,” has focused on the leading factors that contribute to infant death including disorders related to low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces), short gestation (less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy), congenital defects (medical conditions present at birth), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the sudden and unexplained death of an infant.

“Many factors influence maternal and infant health, including a lack of information about healthy choices, the importance of planning a pregnancy, and receiving early prenatal care,” said OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service Chief Suzanna Dooley.

Dooley outlined some of the projects underway as part of the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative: 

  • Pilot a screening tool to assess and educate women on the importance of being healthy before and between pregnancies, which greatly improves the chances of having a healthy baby.
  • Promote the importance of having a supportive work environment to help women be successful at breastfeeding, as well as continuing to promote and officially recognize Breastfeeding Friendly Worksites.
  • Improve Oklahoma’s perinatal outcomes through the “Every Week Counts Collaborative,” a statewide effort to eliminate non-medically indicated (elective) deliveries before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy.
  • Offer online training for nurses, childcare providers, and home visitors on infant safe sleep practices. 
  • Promote tobacco cessation for pregnant women and offer resources for quitting tobacco use through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669).
  • Develop and distribute train the trainer education materials on reducing infant mortality.
  • Work with hospitals to provide “The Period of Purple Crying” educational materials to new parents to explain the normal developmental stage when many infants increase their crying, so parents know what to expect and learn positive ways to cope.
  • Pilot the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in clinics and health departments in an effort to increase the number of women screened for postpartum depression as well as enhance the opportunities to educate women and their families on this public health issue.

“We are hopeful these projects will ultimately reflect improvement in our state’s infant mortality rate,” Dooley said, “but it will take all of us – health care providers, pregnant women, families and friends, employers – working together to make a difference.”

To become a partner in the initiative, or to learn how you can help reduce infant deaths in your community, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov, or call the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service at (405) 271-4480, or contact your local county health department or Turning Point program. Toolkits are available for train the trainer classes and presentations. “We encourage everyone who wants to learn about ways to keep babies healthy and safe to view the website and utilize the materials in your churches, clubs, businesses and other groups,” Dooley emphasized.

Partners in the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative include the following: Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Hospital Association, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Departments of OB/GYN and Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, OU Medical Center (University of Oklahoma Medical Center), Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Tulsa Health Department/Tulsa Health Start, Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, The Parent Child Center of Tulsa and Turning Point Coalitions.

Additional partners include: the Community Health Center Inc./Central Oklahoma Healthy Start, Coalition for Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates, Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa, Indian Health Services, Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board, University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education, the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, Oklahoma Family Network, Safe Kids Coalition, Smart Start Oklahoma, The State Chamber, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health and County Health Departments.

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