By LAUREN GENTILE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan has one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates, and experts are trying to change that by teaching future parents and caretakers about healthy pregnancies and proper sleep positions for newborns, supporting women’s health and reducing unwanted pregnancies.
The Michigan Department of Community Health released its “Infant Mortality Reduction Plan” in August 2012, said Angela Minicuci, public information officer.
“Infants are dying for many reasons and through the plan we have created, we can reduce the risk for death and the eventual number of deaths in infants within Michigan,” said Minicuci.
In Michigan, five out of 1,000 Caucasian babies, seven out of every 1,000 Hispanic babies and 14 out of every 1,000 African-American babies die before their first birthday.
“With an average of 7.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, that is seven babies too many,” Minicuci said. “There is also such a large disparity between races, we need to figure out why and assess what is happening.”
In comparison to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, Michigan now has the highest infant mortality rate and Mincuci said with the plan, Michigan hopes to have one of the lowest rates in the nation.
The current rate in the United States is 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live babies, which is down from 7.1 deaths for every 1,000 live babies in 2000.
The department has teamed up with local health departments, health care providers, universities, professional organizations, community leaders and other interest groups to analyze why babies are dying and how that can be remedied.
The main cause of infant death is that infants sleep with too many extra items in their cribs or in bed with parents, Minicuci said. This can lead to suffocation or choking.
“Sometimes parents do not understand safe sleeping situations for their baby and with this plan we want to get the information out there for all.”
The department plans to publicize programs like Cribs for Kids, founded in 1998 in Pittsburgh, that has been reducing the rates of accidental deaths.
Christian Services/LOVE Inc. of Lansing teamed up with River Terrace Church in East Lansing as a local partner with Cribs for Kids and gives out more than100 cribs each year.
“We really just want a safe place for kids to sleep,” director of Christian Services Jodi Harkema said.
In addition to the crib, families receive information about safe sleep and how to prevent infant deaths.
Families who receive cribs are chosen through home visits by social workers and referrals. Most of the recipients did not have a safe place for their baby to sleep, Harkema said.
The department plans to help women with their health before, during and after pregnancies.
“Some women take an option to have a C-section before 39 weeks and the babies are not full term. This can lead to problems down the road,” Minicuci said.
Dr. Michael Collins, Grand Traverse Health Department Medical Director, says their department is working on an anti-smoking campaign.
“In this area maternal smoking has proven to be a huge factor for health problems in babies,” he said. “The programs are still in early stages, but we have it on our radar.”
The state department also wants to expand home-visiting programs to help support women and infants with home visits from nurses.
“These visits will expand the nurse family partnership for at-risk populations and make sure families are ready for their new baby,” Minicuci said.
With the implementation of the plan, the state department will begin to promote enrollment in Plan First!, a federally-funded program to reduce teen pregnancy.
“We are using all of the resources we have and know of to make Michigan a better place for families and reduce infant deaths,” Minicuci said.
The goal for the plan is to reduce infant mortality significantly by 2015.
By LAUREN GENTILE