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State's infant mortality rate down 34 percent
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ATLANTA -- The Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health reports that the state's infant mortality rate has declined by 34 percent since 1990.
According to the 2007 United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings, Georgia's infant mortality rate was 8.3 per 1,000 live births in 2007 compared to 1990 when the rate was 12.6 per 1,000 live births. The national infant mortality rate was 6.8 per 1,000 live births in 2004.
Despite the overall decrease in the state's rate, the racial disparity in infant mortality continues to raise serious concerns among public health experts. The death rate for African-American babies was more than twice as high as the death rate for white babies in 2004. Experts indicate that high infant mortality in Georgia is an important indicator of the overall health of the state's women and children, and quality of life in surrounding communities.
"Decreasing the state's infant mortality rate and improving birth outcomes are our major priorities," said Dr. Stuart Brown, director of the Division of Public Health. "Every child born in Georgia deserves to live a healthy life, free of physical ailments and life threatening illnesses. While our 2007 rate is an accolade worth applauding, we have to continue pushing forward to improve the health status of Georgia's women and children."
The decline in Georgia's infant mortality rate is the result of activities, programs and services offered by the Division of Public Health to help improve birth outcome among the state's children. The division has worked to improve the technologies and facilities for treating newborns who are dangerously underweight, increase access to prenatal care for pregnant women and raise public awareness about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Access to prenatal care has improved since the 1980s and the racial disparities gap among African-American women is beginning to close. Babies Born Healthy, which covers prenatal care costs for uninsured pregnant women, is one of many programs offered by the Division that provide services and support to ensure better outcomes for infants.
The Division of Public Health also recently launched a crib matching initiative that seeks to combat SIDS, the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under the age of one by providing qualified families with safe sleep education and resources for children. More than 500 infants in Georgia died from SIDS between 2002 and 2005.
Babies with low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) account for more than two-thirds of Georgia's infant deaths. African-American babies are also twice as likely as white infants to be born at a low birth weight. Birth defects are the second most common cause of infant mortality equally affecting both whites and African-Americans. SIDS is the third leading cause of death among infants over one month of age and impacts nearly twice as many African-American babies as whites.
According to public health many causes of death after the first month of a child's life are often preventable. However, these preventable deaths occur twice as often among African-Americans. Factors that contribute to infant mortality rates and low birth weight include:
1. Poor health and/or nutritional status of the mother
2. Substance abuse (e.g., tobacco, alcohol and other drugs - illegal and prescriptive)
3. Inadequate prenatal care and folic acid intake
4. Positioning babies on their stomachs to sleep.
For more information about infant mortality in Georgia, please visit: or call (404) 657-2850.

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