Infant Mortality Awareness Month Sheds Light on Growing National Healthcare Crisis

September 1, 2016

Pregnant Woman With DoctorNICHQ today announced the launch of its annual campaign to combat infant mortality in conjunction with Infant Mortality Awareness Month. Throughout the month of September, NICHQ will continue its efforts to bring awareness to the shockingly high infant mortality rate in the United States while helping empower women to prepare for healthy pregnancies that result in healthy children.

The infant mortality rate reflects the health and well-being of a nation and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States ranks 25th among industrialized countries. For every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., about six will die before their first birthday. In 2014, this translated to 23,215 U.S. infant deaths – that’s enough children to fill 1,000 kindergarten classrooms. With an integrated approach that addresses both social and health issues, we can all do our part to reduce the infant mortality rate. 

The ongoing NICHQ and U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau-lead Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality (Infant Mortality CoIIN), a multiyear national movement that engages federal, state, and local leaders, public and private agencies, professionals, and communities, was launched in 2013 to employ quality improvement, innovation and collaborative learning to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes. The Infant Mortality CoIIN has focused on six strategies to improve outcomes for pregnant women and infants, including: smoking cessation, pre/interconception care, safe sleep, social determinants of health, preterm and early term births, and risk-appropriate perinatal care.

“The extraordinarily high infant mortality rate in the U.S. compared with the rest of the industrialized world is unacceptable,” said Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, FAAP, president and CEO of NICHQ. “The health of mothers and babies should be of paramount importance, and while we’ve made some progress, the numbers are still far too high. We can all do our part together to help prevent these deaths by empowering women with the information they need to be as healthy as possible before pregnancy.”

This year’s campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness about pre/interconception care. Infant mortality and pregnancy-related health are affected by a host of social and medical factors, particularly those that influence a woman's health before, during and after pregnancy. There are several ways to reduce infant mortality through improving women’s health, including:

  • Regular preventive visits with a healthcare provider to establish a continuum of good healthcare. 
  • Preconception care creates a healthy, safe lifestyle prior to pregnancy. The most impactful and most controllable predictor of a baby’s health is the health of the mother. When women feel empowered to take control of their own health, they create a much higher likelihood of a healthy pregnancy. Preconception care plays an important role in lowering both maternal and infant mortality rates, as it promotes women’s health before conception and ultimately results in a healthier baby and improved birth and pregnancy-related outcomes both for the mother and her baby. 
  • Interconception care, particularly the importance of access to contraception during the postpartum period to support healthy birth spacing, ensures physical recovery, better birth outcomes, and healthier babies. Unhealthy birth spacing is linked to low birthweight, can also exacerbate financial hardship, and is a known risk factor for preterm birth, a leading cause of infant mortality and contributor to long-term health problems. 

In 2012, the Infant Mortality CoIIN began as a HRSA-funded regionally-based initiative in the 13 southern states. By 2014, IM CoIIN expanded to the remaining states and jurisdictions to focus on national collaboration. NICHQ and its partners are supporting these states and jurisdictions to incorporate quality improvement principles into their work, and support their efforts with data infrastructure and continuous expert technical assistance. As a key leader of the Infant Mortality CoIIN, NICHQ is breaking barriers to create local and national awareness around health and social strategies to reduce the nation’s infant mortality rate.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Josh Licursi
Josh Licursi
NICHQ Communications Manager
[email protected] or 617-391-2757