Alabama has the third highest infant mortality rate in the country, losing more than 1,000 babies before they are born or before their first birthday.
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, and the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Gift of Life are working to change this statistic.
More than 1,000 pinwheels will be out this month in downtown Montgomery, representing Alabama's babies that didn't reach their full potential.
Here are the numbers: in 2015, 494 babies were born, but didn't make it to their first birthday. 517 babies were stillborn, or miscarried. Deaths many are working to avoid, with awareness and education.
“Most often we want to think about the mom, but there's so much more than the mother's habits or her health,” stated Janice Smiley, director of the Prenatal Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health. “There are other socio-economic factors like the access to healthcare, lack of access to quality healthcare, the socio-economic status of the mother and the town she lives in.”
Low birth rates and premature births account for 68.8 percent of infant deaths in Alabama.
“Smoking is another factor that impacts infant mortality in low birth rates,” stated Smiley.
In many instances, the access to proper neonatal intensive care is not available.
“These babies need to be born and delivered in a facility that has the expertise to provide the care the infants need to survive,” Smiley explained. “We are working to put together a system, for the very low birth rate infants can be transferred to an appropriate facility to have the appropriate care they need.”
In Montgomery, The Gift of Life Foundation's sole mission is to reduce infant mortality. Pairing at least 500 at-risk expectant mothers each year with a nurse through the baby's second birthday.
“They work with them on making good choices about health, relationships, eating, having a medical home, and getting in their visits - all those things,” explained Cheryl Davis, executive director of The Gift of Life Foundation.
For more information on Alabama’s infant mortality rate, click here.
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