#NewsdayTuesday: U.S. Infant Mortality Rates Drop

By Holly Rosen Fink

April 4, 2017

baby box

We are kicking off this week’s #NewsdayTuesday with great news!  The rate of children under the age of one dying (known as infant mortality) in the United States has fallen by 15 percent in the past 10 years, according to researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics.

In the past, researchers have been concerned about infant mortality in the U.S. They point to several factors, including a high rate of teen pregnancies, a lack of planning and a lack of healthcare access as a few of the causes. More than 40 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and that means women are not preparing to become mothers. They may not take prenatal vitamins as early as they should, may not get early checkups, and may not be in the best of health themselves. Other factors may include obesity, poorer health insurance coverage, and low education levels for many expectant mothers.

Fortunately, there is good news! Many factors are contributing to the decrease in infant mortality rates. For one, the birthrate among U.S. teenagers dropped 8 percent in 2016 to a record low – the latest sign of  progress in efforts to reduce teen pregnancies. We have also seen an increase in better health coverage and increased education for pregnant moms.

Baby boxes are encouraging safe sleeping habits to help curb infant mortality

American hospitals are also starting to get involved and are providing solutions like encouraging the use of baby boxes. These boxes promote safe sleeping practices for newborns, and are modeled after a program in Finland that began more than 70 years ago. The boxes also come equipped with clothes, a mattress, a fitted sheet and other baby necessities. In January, New Jersey became the first to adopt a statewide baby box program. And now, Alabama and Ohio, along with hospitals in Philadelphia and San Antonio, Texas offer baby boxes.. Hopefully, more states will adopt the use of baby boxes.

Proponents of baby boxes say the combination of educational tools and free resources will bring America’s infant mortality rate closer to those found in other countries. 

Take action challenge

  • Every Mother Counts is dedicated to making the lives of mothers and babies safe. Read about their work here and join their effort: www.everymothercounts.org 
  • Read this NPR article to see how states are encouraging safe sleep habits by providing baby boxes

Photo source: Dolores Peterson and her three-month-old daughter Ariabella pose for a photograph at their home in Camden, New Jersey, March 6, 2017. New Jersey became the first state to send newborn babies and their parents home with a box that doubles as a crib and full of necessities, with the aim of cutting back on sudden infant death syndrome. Matt Rourke / AP

 

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