Each September, health care professionals shout from the proverbial rooftops: “This is Infant Mortality Awareness Month!”
They do so because they want people to be concerned about this ongoing and often preventable tragedy in our community, particularly because we have unacceptably high rates of infant mortality in Kansas and specifically in Sedgwick County – 7.4 infants died per 1,000 live births in Sedgwick County in 2010 compared with the national average of 6.1 for the entire United States.
One of the important first steps that we, as a community, must take is to recognize the brutal facts associated with infant mortality. Here are just a few, according to the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality:
• The death rate for infants born to unmarried mothers was 75 percent higher than for infants born to married mothers.
• The death rate for infants born to mothers who did not graduate from high school was 61 percent higher than for those born to moms with a high school education or greater.
• Infants born to teen moms had a 57 percent higher mortality rate than infants born to moms 20 and older.
• Babies born to mothers who received no prenatal care were seven times more likely to die before their first birthday than those born to mothers who began care in their first trimester.
• Kansas mothers who smoked anytime during pregnancy were almost twice as likely to have a baby die than mothers who did not smoke.
• Preterm infants were 16 times more likely to die before their first birthdays than full-term infants.
Whether you’re a young mother or a senior citizen, take time this month to learn more about this blight on our community. Organizations such as Healthy Babies, SIDS Network of Kansas, March of Dimes, the Safe Sleep Workgroup, and Project Imprint are valuable resources in our community.
We’ve made progress, but more must be done. In an effort to continue moving forward, we are calling for the formation of a local Maternal and Infant Health Coalition. We envision this as the focal point for a series of coordinated activities that will lead to meaningful improvements in our infant-mortality experience in Wichita.
As committed physicians, we look forward to providing support and leadership in pressing the attack on this serious community problem.