Many Oklahoma babies do not survive to celebrate their first birthday. Infant mortality is the death of a baby less than one year old. Although we have seen some progress, we still have much work ahead of us. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2009, Oklahoma ranked 44th in the U.S. in infant mortality. Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate has consistently remained above the national average since 1992.
Many programs and interventions are being implemented to reduce infant mortality in communities across Oklahoma. Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility is one such initiative. Multiple partners have joined efforts to educate the public and professionals on issues that impact infant mortality. Key health messages of the initiative include:
• Plan for pregnancy and be healthy before and between pregnancies to improve the chances of having a healthy baby.
• Get prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant.
• Take 400 mcg of folic acid daily to reduce the chances of having a baby with birth defects.
• Be aware that a full-term pregnancy lasts more than nine months (about 40 weeks).
• Breastfeed to help a baby get the best start in life.
• Place a baby on his/her back to sleep to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
• Avoid exposing a baby to secondhand smoke which can increase the chance of SIDS.
• Know the signs of postpartum depression and get help, if needed.
• Correctly install approved infant car seat to help ensure a baby’s safety.
• Never, never shake a baby.
We recognize that investing in the health and safety of Oklahoma’s moms and babies will reduce overall costs of often expensive medical treatments that low birth weight babies may require. Supporting infant mortality prevention programs and initiatives now will prevent future spending on Medicaid, special education, and a myriad of other social services that may be needed for infants and children who are born prematurely or with a low birth weight.
Everyone – parents, grandparents, caretakers, providers, friends, neighbors, faith-based organizations, employers, universities – has a responsibility to take steps to help ensure the health and safety of Oklahoma’s babies. Find your role and make a difference. To learn more, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov.