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For Release: August 27, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Statewide Efforts to Reduce Infant Mortality in OK Show Encouraging Signs
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today that Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (IMR) is declining, a positive sign in the agency’s efforts to reduce the number of babies who die in Oklahoma each year.

Preliminary data from OSDH Vital Records show the IMR in Oklahoma has declined from 8.6 per 1,000 live births in 2007, to 7.9 per 1,000 live births in 2012.

“It is good news to finally begin to see a decline in infant mortality in Oklahoma.  If we can reach the national IMR rate of 6.15 recorded in 2010, then about 90 fewer Oklahoma babies would die each year,” said Suzanna Dooley, director of the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service. “Yet while we are seeing improvement, one infant death is still a tragedy. We will continue our efforts to reach out to Oklahoma’s communities and build an environment that improves the health status of mothers and babies.”

“We are encouraged by the progress of the many efforts and programs undertaken by our public and private health partners to help reduce infant mortality in Oklahoma,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “Many have chosen to participate in the statewide initiative called Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, which applies a multifaceted approach to the problem of infant mortality.  Even though this improvement in IMR is reassuring, our rates are still too high and we have too many babies who do not live to see their first birthday. We need everyone’s help to bring these rates down and help assure healthier futures for Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents.”

Some of the activities already put into action or enhanced since launch of the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative include the following:

  • Mailing a postcard to remind new mothers to visit their health care provider within the first month of the baby’s birth. 
  • Promoting development and adoption of policies and educational programs for hospital nurses and providers to promote breastfeeding, safe sleep environments, the Every Week Counts Collaborative to support carrying babies full term (about 40 weeks), and the Period of Purple Crying and Clickers projects to help prevent shaken baby syndrome.
  • Providing materials to educate parents and caregivers about safe sleep environments before releasing them from participating hospitals.
  • Encouraging community partners’ support for policy and legislative changes to improve the health of mothers and babies, including reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Partnering to host educational community baby showers for expectant mothers covering topics like nutrition, exercise, avoiding tobacco use, infant injury prevention through watchful supervision at nap and bath times, and to make sure infant car seats are installed correctly.
  • Promoting a national campaign, Text4baby, to deliver health information via text messages to women who are pregnant and through the baby’s first birthday.
  • Using a screening tool for postpartum depression at community-based clinics and health departments to identify high risk mothers and link them with assistance needed.
  • Promoting the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Maintaining a breastfeeding hotline 1-877-271-MILK (1-877-271-6455), promoting policies to support breastfeeding, and working with employers to become a “breastfeeding friendly” worksite.
  • Distributing Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility media messages statewide, tailored to encourage healthy behaviors of current and future parents.
  • Supporting hospitals to work toward Baby-Friendly international designation, signifying the best possible care for mothers and babies and assuring moms have the skills and confidence needed to successfully start and continue breastfeeding their babies or feed formula safely.
  • Hosting statewide and community events to help recruit local businesses, schools, universities, churches, and individuals to participate in the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative.
  • Providing free on-line and print resources to help communities and healthcare providers reach the most at-risk populations. Resource Cards are available to help distribute in your community.
  • Supporting education, clinical screening, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases before and during pregnancy.
  • Working with schools in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, as well as targeted counties across the state with high teen pregnancy rates, by offering evidence-based education to youth about pregnancy prevention.

To learn more about what you can do to help reduce infant mortality, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov.

Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility partners include the following: Community Health Centers, Inc./Central Oklahoma Healthy Start; Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa; Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates; Indian Health Services; Infant Crisis Services, Inc.; March of Dimes; Oklahoma Child Death Review Board; Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board; Oklahoma City-County Health Department; Oklahoma City Indian Clinic; Oklahoma Department of Human Services; Oklahoma Department of  Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Oklahoma Family Network; Oklahoma Health Care Authority; Oklahoma Hospital Association; Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy; Oklahoma State Department of Health; Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust; Safe Kids Oklahoma; Smart Start Oklahoma; The Parent Child Center of Tulsa; The State Chamber; Tulsa Health Department/Tulsa Healthy Start; Turning Point Coalitions; University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education; University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center/Department of OB/GYN and Pediatrics; and the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.   

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