Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 23, 2012

Michigan has high rate of infant mortality

Main cause may be sleeping situations

Special to the Record-Eagle

LANSING — Michigan has one of the nation's highest infant mortality rates, and experts are trying to change that by teaching future parents and caretakers about healthy pregnancies and proper sleep positions for newborns, supporting women's health and reducing unwanted pregnancies.

The Michigan Department of Community Health released its "Infant Mortality Reduction Plan" in August.

"Infants are dying for many reasons and through the plan we have created, we can reduce the risk for death and the eventual number of deaths in infants within Michigan," said community health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci.

In Michigan, five out of 1,000 Caucasian babies, seven out of every 1,000 Hispanic babies and 14 out of every 1,000 African-American babies die before their first birthday.

"There is ... such a large disparity between races, we need to figure out why and assess what is happening," Minicuci said.

In comparison to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, Michigan now has the highest infant mortality rate.

The current rate in the United States is 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live babies, which is down from 7.1 deaths for every 1,000 live babies in 2000.

The department has teamed with local health departments, health care providers, universities, professional organizations, community leaders and other interest groups to analyze why babies are dying and how that can be remedied.

The main cause of infant death is that infants sleep with too many extra items in their cribs or in bed with parents, Minicuci said. This can lead to suffocation or choking.

State officials want to help women with their health before, during and after pregnancies.

Dr. Michael Collins, Grand Traverse Health Department Medical Director, said his department is working on an anti-smoking campaign.

The goal for the plan is to reduce infant mortality significantly by 2015.

Lauren Gentile writes for Michigan State University's Capital News Service.