During the month of September, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) joins with the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), health care providers and maternal and child health advocates to focus on infant mortality. WKKF believes all children deserve to have the best possible chance of reaching their first birthday and continuing to thrive.
We typically don’t think about infant mortality in the United States, yet our country has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed nations, lagging well behind Canada, Italy, Japan and others. Equally troublesome are the persistent racial and economic disparities that contribute to our nation’s high infant mortality rate.
“Addressing disparities in infant mortality aligns with our commitment to racial equity,” says Patrick Simpson, who leads the foundation’s maternal and child health program. “Healthy pregnancies and healthy babies are integral to the long-term success of communities.”
WKKF strongly supports efforts to eliminate the longstanding two-to-one disparity in infant mortality rates between African American and white infants. As part of the foundation’s broader Food, Health and Well-Being program, our Maternal and Child Health program aligns with strategies in support of breastfeeding, healthy food, physical activity and access to quality health care. Together these strategies address children along a developmental continuum from the prenatal months to early childhood.
We were encouraged by a report issued earlier this year from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing a 12 percent decline in the nation’s infant mortality rate from 2005 through 2011. This trend is particularly welcome given that rates had stalled from 2000 to 2005. The CDC report also showed a decline in the infant mortality rate for African American mothers as well as a slight narrowing of the racial gap in rates.
Yet our nation’s overall infant mortality rate remains unacceptably high, while the racial gap in infant mortality rates remains stubbornly wide. National Infant Mortality Awareness Month offers an opportunity to learn about infant mortality, support year-round efforts to address the issue and take action to reduce infant deaths, low-birth weight, pre-term births and racial disparities in infant mortality.
The theme for this year’s National Infant Mortality Awareness Month is “A Healthy Baby Begins with You and You and You.” A great place to start is with OMH, where you’ll find resources for individuals, health care professionals and maternal and child health advocates. Visit NHSA for blog posts throughout the month, infant mortality awareness resources and information on the annual Baby Buggy Walk in the Park, with Healthy Start projects in 10 states holding events on Sept. 21, 2013. OMH provides information on setting up a walk in your area.