WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The Forsyth County Health Department says it is still working to combat its infant mortality rate--the highest, in recent years, of North Carolina's five most populated counties.
In light of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, the department will join the Winston-Salem mayor and community members for an event Tuesday in which they'll push empty baby strollers down city streets to commemorate the 46 infants who died in the county last year. The event launches with Mayor Joines's remarks at 11:30 a.m. from Centenary United Methodist Church on 646 West Fifth Street.
On Wednesday, the Guilford County Health Department and Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality will hold a similar walk in Greensboro called "A Walk to Remember." The walk will start and end at Center City Park. Cone Foundation Vice President Antonia Monk-Reaves will give opening remarks at 11, and the walk will commence at 11:30 down Elm Street. Participants and the health department will be celebrating 22 years of coordinating prenatal care through the Adopt-A-Mom Program.
Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child before his or her first birthday. The Forsyth County Health Department said the 2012 to 2013 statistics are not set to be released until most likely early October. The department said though the rate could decrease slightly, because of new programs implemented to combat the infant mortality rate, it will not change drastically.
In recent years, Forsyth County has had the highest infant mortality rate of North Carolina's five most urban counties. From 2011 to 2012, there were 10 infant deaths per every 1,000 live births (46 infants). Forsyth County's infant mortality rate is well above the state average infant mortality rate of 7.2 and Guilford County's rate of 7.4 (45 infants). The U.S. ranks 29th worldwide in infant mortality rates.
The Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition has been working since 1996 to reduce infant mortality. The Coalition's latest initiative promotes breastfeeding an infant for one year. The department is asking area agencies to post "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" signs. Leading causes of North Carolina infant death in 2011 were "other conditions originating in the perinatal period" (22.6%) and prematurity and low birth weight (22.5%).
WFMY News 2 spoke with a Kernersville woman who is scheduled to give closing remarks at the Winston-Salem walk Tuesday. Ashley Ortiz said her son Gavin, born prematurely, passed away after two and a half days of birth.
Ortiz said, "I hope people understand...especially people who are at high-risk factors for premature birth...that I hope that they take away that there are resources to help them quit smoking or to get health insurance or to get help breast feeding-these things that really help promote healthy babies."
Both Ortiz and the Forsyth County Health Department acknowledged part of Infant Mortality Awareness Month is to dispel the common stigmas associated with infant mortality.
Ortiz said, "The first thing and obviously the one that's most personable to me is my ability to talk about my son Gavin and for people to understand that infant mortality has a face--that it's not something that happens to other people. It can happen to anybody."
Debbie Mason with the Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition explained she has promoted community outreach and awareness about infant mortality. She said the health department has been successful in improving stastics or infant mortality attributed to smoking. She referred to the ongoing campain to rid smoking from restaurants.
Carrie Worsley, the department's community health education outreach director, said she encourages women (and their partners) to utilize the department's programs--which include classes on family planning and abstinence, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Shaken Baby Syndrome, safe crib positions and more. For more information or to schedule an appointment for those services, Worsley suggests people call (336) 703-3324.
This week, Senator Hagan helped introduce the bipartisan Child Care Infant Mortality Prevention Act to Congress. The bill proposes allowing funding from the Child Care and Development Block Grants to be delegated to child care provider training in sleep practices, CPR for infants and first aid.
WFMY News 2