Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate continues to decline; statewide efforts show results

Posted on: 9/17/14

Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (IMR), the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births, continues to decline, dropping from 8.6 in 2007 to 6.8 in 2013, saving an additional 34 babies’ lives over last year, according to the vital statistics data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

A statewide initiative, Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, of which the Oklahoma Hospital Association and its member hospitals are key partners, works to positively impact factors that contribute to infant mortality in Oklahoma. “We are encouraged that these collaborative efforts are making a difference meaning more parents are able to celebrate their child’s first birthday, rather than mourning their loss at that time,” stated Oklahoma Maternal and Child Health Director Joyce Marshall.

The OSDH and initiative partners recognize September as “Infant Mortality Awareness Month” in Oklahoma, and outline some of the projects underway as part of the initiative:

  • Using a screening tool in clinics across Oklahoma to assess and educate women on the importance of being healthy before and between pregnancies;
  • Promoting tobacco cessation for pregnant women and offering resources for quitting tobacco use through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669);
  • Working with hospitals on multiple projects to promote good maternal and infant outcomes, including the “Every Week Counts” collaborative, to help eliminate non-medically indicated (elective) deliveries before 39 completed weeks of pregnancy; the “Becoming Baby-Friendly in Oklahoma” project to offer the optimal level care for mothers and newborns through breastfeeding support; the “Period of PURPLE® Crying” program to help prevent abusive head trauma in infants; and the “Safe to Sleep” campaign to promote infant safe sleep practices;
  • Screening for postpartum depression to provide education and referral services for new mothers and their families; and
  • Providing information to professionals and the general public on issues related to infant mortality through educational resources, including public service announcements airing statewide during September.

Despite improvements in infant outcomes, premature birth in Oklahoma is still a leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity. In 2012, Oklahoma ranked 44th in the percentage of births born premature. Premature birth is defined as a birth occurring before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. According to public health officials at the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service, preventive health programs for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age could help reduce the risks of premature births.

 “It is important to recognize that each of us has a role and can take steps to promote healthy outcomes for Oklahoma’s mothers and babies. I am grateful for all of those working together to save lives, including the Legislature, which appropriated additional funding to reduce infant mortality, which is paying off,” stated State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “While we are excited to celebrate the lowest infant mortality rate Oklahoma has ever had, we still have much to do to reach the national average infant mortality rate of 6.1 and to improve at all levels in this critical area.” 

Free wallet-sized resource cards are available to distribute in local communities, which provide health tips and resource information for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age. To get cards for distribution in your community and learn other ways to help ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma’s babies, visit the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility web pages at http://iio.health.ok.gov, or email Janette Cline at janettec@health.ok.gov or call (405) 271-4480. 

For more information on the Every Week Counts initiative, go to www.okoha.com/everyweekcounts, or contact LaWanna Halstead at lhalstead@okoha.com

OHA Partners with Qualivis 

Qualivis was developed as a collaborative effort among multiple state hospital associations to meet the temporary staffing needs of member hospitals and health systems.

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