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May 3, 2012
TOPEKA Two foundations will grant nearly $900,000 over five years to Kansas counties working to reduce infant mortality, members of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality were told today at their quarterly meeting.
By July, up to three counties will be selected for grants to launch local Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) initiatives.
FIMR programs collect data related to infant deaths, including environmental information learned from interviews with mothers who recently have had a baby die. The program then uses the information gathered to analyze and address community-specific causes of deaths.
"This could have a huge impact on our infant mortality. These programs are effective," said Dr. Dennis Cooley, chair of the panel. "This is an exciting time now. I feel like we're starting to see some results from the efforts of our various groups."
The counties being considered for funding are those with the state's highest infant mortality rates: Geary, Reno, Saline, Shawnee and Wyandotte. The grants will be provided by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund and the Kansas Health Foundation, which is a major funder of the Kansas Health Institute.
Kansas' death rate for all babies is 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. That's higher than the national average of 5.6. The state's death rate for black infants is the worst in the nation, at 19.6 per 1,000 live births.
Sedgwick County had one of the highest overall infant mortality rates in the state at 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births from 2005 to 2009.
In 2010, county officials there started the state's sole FIMR initiative and hired Shalae Harris to coordinate the program, which draws on hospital administrators, pediatricians, prenatal physicians, health department staff, and other community workers and volunteers.
"It's a huge collaborative effort," Harris said. "It brings so many people together to move toward change, working really on a shoestring budget and existing resources."
Medical staff comprise the FIMR Case Review Board. The FIMR Community Action Team then deploys intervention programs tailored to the causes identified by the review board.
For example, preliminary data showed that 47 percent of babies who died in Sedgwick County in 2010 had mothers who smoked.
Harris said she worked with local tobacco-control advocates to target clinics, prenatal physicians and nurses to educate them on tobacco cessation counseling and resources for getting reimbursement for their time doing so.
Blue Ribbon Panel member Shannon Cotsoradis said the new FIMR programs could prove to be models for other counties.
"I think if they're successful then that can certainly be elevated to the state level and offered as a potential statewide solution to our infant mortality rate," Cotsoradis said.
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