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April 18, 2011
NEW YORK CITY Raising awareness of Kansas’ infant mortality problem will be key to bringing down the state’s high death rates, among the highest in the country, said Dr. Dennis Cooley, a pediatrician and chairman of the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality.
To that end, the panel has coordinated a statewide education tour this week featuring Tonya Lewis Lee, the head of a national infant mortality awareness campaign, “A Healthy Baby Begins with You” campaign. Lewis Lee, wife of director Spike Lee, produced the campaign's "Crisis in the Crib" documentary. (Download the full video, 236 MB windows media file).
Tour stops are scheduled in Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City. It is the first high-profile awareness event organized by the Blue Ribbon Panel.
Among other things, Lewis Lee is scheduled to host community discussions centered around the campaign, the documentary video and the "Preconception Peer Program," a network of volunteers organized by The Office of Minority Health.
Lewis Lee said her office identifies interested students, faculty and other potential volunteers to distribute information about reducing the risk of infant mortality.
The volunteers are trained and then hit the streets, going door-to-door, organizing health fairs and other events to raise awareness.
"It doesn't have to be 20 kids," Lewis Lee said. "It's the kind of thing where if we have three, four or five students, it's amazing what they can do."
She said Kansas doesn’t have any local volunteer programs started yet, but that she hopes her visit will generate interest.
Around the country, one thing stands out, Lewis Lee said:
"First and foremost, people are not aware of the infant mortality issue. Most people know someone who has lost a child before its first birthday. But while they know that, they don't know that our infant mortality rate is ridiculously high."
Her Kansas speaking schedule is below the video.
Infant Mortality for the African-American community is a pressing, but often overlooked, health disparity. The rate of death for black babies before their first birthday is twice the rate of white babies and greatly outpaces the national average. For some communities these deaths can seem like a normal part of life, but they are strong indicators of the health of the community. Produced by the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
April 20 — Wichita
Community viewing and discussion of "Crisis in the Crib," with free light dinner
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at St. Mark United Methodist Church (map)
April 21 — Topeka
Presentation aimed at health and childcare professionals, elected officials and community leaders
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Brown Foundation (map)
April 22 — Kansas City
Presentation for Mother & Child Health Coalition annual meeting
8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Jack Reardon Convention Center (map)
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Kansas City Kansas Community College Performing Arts Center (map)
→ Kansas has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the U.S.
→ Kansas black infant mortality rate worst in the country
→ Road map sets goals for reducing state's alarming infant mortality rate