RALEIGH – Findings from a new study surrounding infant mortality rates could leave some thinking twice about having a baby in the U.S. A study in the medical journal “PLoS Medicine” examines all 193 member counties of the World Health Organization.
While annual newborn deaths dropped by more than 1 million between 1990 and 2009, the United States now ranks 41st in the world when it comes to infant mortality rates.
Despite spending more money per capita on health care, the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than 40 other countries. WHO reports there are 4.3 deaths per 1,000 live births.
"No doubt we spend a lot in health care and we have tremendous resources, although not allocated equally across the country, but there are a lot of other things that have to be in place to have for us to have healthy mothers who have healthy babies," explained Janice Freedman, NC Healthy Start Foundation Executive Director.
According Center for Disease Control figures from 2006, North Carolina carries one of the ten highest infant mortality rates in the nation.
"Where we really need to do our work in this state is in an area called preconception health,” reflected Dr. Sarah Verbiest, who is the UNC School of Medicine's Center for Maternal and Infant Health Executive Director. “Which means how do we help our young women and women of child bearing age be healthy?"
Verbiest said most newborn deaths occur in the eastern part of the state and in urban areas and also impact certain groups.
"Women who are lower income are at great risk of having a baby who dies or who is born pre-term and that African-American families also have a much higher risk," said Verbiest.
To ensure a baby is born healthy, experts advise women to take steps like planning their pregnancies, stopping tobacco-use while pregnant and following safe-sleeping practices for infants.
"We have to make sure people have the tools that they need so that they can be able to be as healthy as can be,” said Verbiest.
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to release the 2010 infant mortality rates for North Carolina before the end of the month.
Information on keeping moms and babies safe before, during and after pregnancy: