Educators try to reduce MS high infant mortality rate

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By teaching mothers to better care for their babies, health care providers say they hope to lower Mississippi's high infant mortality rate. The latest figures issued by the State Health Department in 2007 show Sudden Infant Death Syndrome killed 58 babies in our state. At a health fair this weekend, parents learned how to reduce the risk of SIDS and other dangers.

A CPR instructor used a doll to demonstrate how to save the life of a baby who is chocking or has stopped breathing. It was information some parents said they wished they'd learned years ago.

"I wanted to learn how to do CPR on an infant," said Yvonne, a parent in the class. "I had an experience with my first one, a chocking experience. With me expecting my second child, I want to know more about it."

Coastal Family Health Center runs the Mississippi Gulf Coast Children's Health Project, which is encouraging parents to learn more about caring for their babies. Officials say our state has the highest infant mortality rate in the country and many of the deaths are from the coast.

"The rate keeps rising for our citizens of Mississippi," Dr. Persharon Dixon said. "We are somewhere around three to four times that of the national average. We have not seen a decrease in that in a little while. In fact, our numbers are going up."

SIDS is the leading cause of death for children one month to 12-months-old. Officials say while SIDS can't be prevented, parents can reduce the risk.

"I think, again, it's the education and the knowledge about putting the babies on their backs to sleep," health educator Stacy Scott said. "Along with just safe sleep practices, as far as putting the baby in their own safety approved crib versus bed sharing. There's a lot of other components that go along with that as far as the high rate of pre-maturity and low birth rates that also contributes to the increase of babies dying from SIDS."

Health educators say they want to spread knowledge among everyone from grandparents to day care providers, so more babies grow up healthy and happy.

The State Health Department said the rate of SIDS is highest among African-Americans and American Indians.

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