Archive for the ‘ Infant Mortality Awareness Month ’ Category

We wouldn’t accept 41st place in the Olympics

Mike Fraser is the CEO of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs.

Infant mortality is one of the key indicators of a society’s health – and the US isn’t doing that great compared to our sister countries around the world. A recent WHO report found that the US ranks 41st in the world. 41st?  Aren’t we a country of #1s and gold medals?  Why do we accept 41st place among all nations on this critical measure of how well we care for women, children, and families? I think it is primarily because we haven’t made infant mortality as big of an issue as it really should be. Most Americans don’t know we rank 41st. Most Americans don’t know that compared to other countries, we have a long way to go in improving our rates. Would we accept 41st place in the Olympics? Heck no.  Why do we accept it for our children?

Raising infant mortality awareness is key to obtaining more support to address the problem. That is why September’s infant mortality awareness activities are so important. Raising the issue in policy circles is helpful, getting our friends and families talking to policy makers about this issue is even better. The more we can let our representatives know that we don’t want to be 41st anymore the more pressure they will feel to do something about it. There is a lot we can do to address infant mortality – we know what some of the major causes are, and we have a good toolkit of solutions, but resources to address this issue have been cut back, not increased. We also know that there is a great deal more states and their partners can do to help communities address this important problem. We all need to be part of the solution.  That’s why we are encouraging everyone to get active this month – and after – in raising awareness and bringing attention to this important MCH issue.

Learning to Count Dead Babies

Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, Director, Birthing Project USA: The Underground Railroad for New Life, answers, “Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness around infant mortality?”

DeAndre lived ten days, and in his birth, short life and death…he taught me that Infant Mortality Rate means “counting dead babies”.  During the last century, the US counted more dead babies than all the soldiers we lost in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. DeAndre also taught me that each life brings the gift of knowledge. If we pay attention, we can learn something. In his case, along with the reality of death, he taught me that even though he was another woman’s child…he was also my child and the child of every woman and man who have a sense of community and accountability to our ancestors and to our “yet to be born”.

As we remember the little ones who came and left us so quickly, I light a candle of remembrance that flickers with hope.  We do not have all the answers to keep them here as long as we would like but I believe that, as we raise awareness and take action by surrounding young parents with care, information, guidance and support, our babies have a better chance of being born as healthy as possible to parents who are prepared to love and care for them.

View our Pilgramadge  to BabyLand at Birthing Project USA You Tube Channel

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/BirthingProjectUSA

Saving Babies

Elizabeth Perry, Executive Assistant/Communications Associate for NHSA, on how she learned about infant mortality.

In D.C., the first question after you’re introduced to a new person is, “And what do you do?” The standard answer is the name of your company, what the company does and your role in the company….which results in a glazed looking head-bob from the questioner. Since I began at NHSA, I’ve had a simpler and more direct response, “I save babies.”

I didn’t set out in this job to save babies. That may sound funny, since I obviously knew where I was working, but it’s absolute truth. You see, I’m the only staff member WITHOUT a background in MCH. In fact, I couldn’t have told you what MCH stood for on my first day. (It’s Maternal and Child Health, for those stumbling blindly across this blog.) My background in women’s health focused on women, but I didn’t know much about infants and pregnancy. I learned, and I learned quickly.

I began reading about the work of Healthy Start, and the incredibly tragic need for more of the work. How could so many babies be dying before the age of one? While I’ve never experienced pregnancy, I’ve sympathized deeply with friends who have miscarried. I’ve seen the loss and the grieving they’ve done for a child they never held. As I read more about the infant mortality rates in this country and around the world, I couldn’t imagine the depth of loss experienced by those who’ve given birth and lost their child.

Working at NHSA has been my introduction into the tragedy that is the IMR in this country. I’ve learned about babies dying in alarming numbers, and I’ve learned that babies of color die much more often than white babies. I’ve been horrified by the statistics and moved by the stories I’ve heard from women and men who persevere in making their families healthier.

I’m not a case worker or nurse or family therapist; these skills are outside of my abilities. But I do have skills. We all do. I choose every day to use my skills to spread awareness about the epidemic that is infant mortality in this country and to advocate on behalf of those working in the field. I choose to spread the word about infant mortality, because if babies are dying, we should be doing something to stop it.

I urge you to use your skills or your voice to spread the message that infant mortality is real in this country; babies are dying, and we MUST do more to educate people. If you pass the message on, when someone asks what you do, you can say, “I save babies” too.

Let’s make sure more babies blow out their 1st candle

Phyllis George, NHSA Senior Program Manager, answers the question, “Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness around infant mortality?”

I learned early in life how devastating the effects of infant mortality can have on families. My parents are from Sierra Leone in west Africa, and many aunts and cousins growing up never got a chance to celebrate the 1st birthdays of their children. Over the years, the number of maternal and infant deaths has decreased, but Sierra Leone still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Who would have thought that years later I would be working to help bring awareness to the issue in a nation where a woman does not have to walk for miles to receive prenatal care? It amazes me the wealth of resources that are available to people in the United States; yet we only rank 31st  in infant mortality rates among industrialized countries.

I believe that the main factor that contributes to the alarming infant mortality rates in the U.S. is lack of education and awareness about the issue. Other factors such as race and socio-economic status play a part, but many people, even those with a background in public health, are not aware of how to improve their chances of a successful pregnancy. I have yet to experience the privilege of being a mother, but if I wasn’t in the field of maternal and child health, would I know this information and ensure that my unborn child had the best start in life possible? Would I, after having my child, understand how to make sure that life flourishes beyond year one? I honestly do not know.

Health providers, community workers, churches, hair salons, friends, family members…these are the people that those who are most at risk of experiencing an infant death come in contact with on a regular basis. We all need to help in this fight and increase infant mortality awareness. Other countries should use us as an example and follow our lead on ensuring that the families in their communities are healthy. September is when we can begin to open up dialogue on this topic to families who do not know or congressmen who are not aware of the deplorable infant mortality rates in their cities, but let’s continue to spread the message throughout the year. Be the voice for the countless babies who did not live to blow out their first candle.