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July 19, 2011
TOPEKA New figures show that fewer Kansas infants died in 2010 than in 2009.
The provisional statistics released today were compiled by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Of 40,439 births in 2010, 254 babies died. That was down from 290 deaths out of 41,369 births in 2009.
That puts the state's infant mortality rate at 6.28 per 1,000 live births, a decrease from 7.01 in 2009. The KDHE report noted that the decrease is not statistically significant.
The report also stated that the rate was Kansas' lowest since recordkeeping began in 1912.
However, Kansas has had among the highest infant death rates in the U.S. for the past six years.
KDHE secretary Dr. Robert Moser said the agency appreciated work by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality to reduce the risk of infant deaths. He said the panel has helped disseminate critical health information.
"We’ve already noticed community leaders taking the reins in their cities and neighborhoods by providing venues for sharing information to benefit the health and well being of mothers and infants. We look for continued progress in this effort to reduce the rate of infant mortality," Moser said.
Final statistics will be released as part of KDHE's annual summary, which should available in September or November, officials said. National statistics for comparison typically are available by spring.
Infant mortality panel
The infant mortality panel — 16 health workers, state officials and child advocates — was convened in 2009 by the Governor's Office to review the causes of infant deaths in the state and find ways to reduce the number of babies who die each year.
At its meeting last week, the group discussed plans for the coming public awareness campaigns.
KDHE officials and advocates such as Christy Schunn of the Kansas SIDS Network distribute among local health providers, day care workers and civic groups information intended to help reduce the risk of infant deaths.
Included in the information are:
• Safe sleep techniques;
• Details about prenatal care and how to get financial support for it, if needed;
• Details about help quitting tobacco or substance abuse.
Schunn said while last fall's awareness campaign was statewide, this year's campaign would be targeted in the counties with the highest infant death rates: Butler, Elk, Geary, Greenwood and Saline.
"The plan is to talk to the local experts and find out what kind of a plan would be best individualized to their community. That could look a variety of different ways — more media, more TV versus newspaper, or more grassroots things like a community baby shower," Schunn said.
The panel also heard updates from spokesmen for Fetal and Infant Mortality Review programs in Wichita and Kansas City. FIMR attempts to identify the causes of individual deaths and determine common causes of infant death in given communities.
Blue Ribbon Panel Chairman Dr. Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician, said the group was surprised to learn that in Kansas City, for example, a leading contributing factor to infant mortality seemed to be asthma in mothers.
PRAMS funding on hold
Cooley said the panel did not have time to discuss how to pay for the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, or PRAMS, in Kansas. State officials found out in March that that Kansas would not receive a federal grant to underwrite the program. Cooley and others have said PRAMS would be a critical tool in addressing infant mortality at the community level.
In April, the panel decided to seek private funding for PRAMS. Cooley said the group will further discuss doing so at their next meeting. The Blue Ribbon panel meets again at 1 p.m. Sept. 30 at the KDHE offices (map). The meetings are open to the public.
An educational video for new mothers, family members and other child caretakers on providing the best environment for infants to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Produced by the SIDS Network of Kansas, Safe Kids Douglas County, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment: safesleepkansas.org. Find more information on infant mortality in Kansas at: khi.org/infantmortality