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County targets infant mortality

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Nash County Health Department has been awarded an $8,000 Dr. Ann Wolfe mini-grant by the N.C. Public Health Association to help address the issue of infant mortality.

The grant money will be used to help support the Health Department’s Baby Love Plus Program, which focuses on improving birth outcomes of children from birth to two years of age and the health of women of childbearing ages 15 to 44.

As part of the conditions of the program, 85 percent of Baby Love Plus program participants must be African-American or American Indian. From 2011-15, 74 percent of the Nash County infant deaths occurred among African-American residents. The money will be primarily used to help prevent instances of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS.

“The Nash County Baby Love Plus Program has experienced some infant deaths in the past. This partnership with Nash Community College will give parents information on how to prevent infant death, which may prevent future infant deaths in our county,” Larissa Mills, coordinator of health services for the Nash County Heath Department, told the Telegram.

The National Institutes of Health identifies SIDS as the leading cause of death in U.S. for infants between one month and one year of age. North Carolina is home to one of the country’s worst infant mortality rates. Since poverty and infant mortality are typically aligned, Eastern North Carolina is disproportionately affected, according to a press release from the Nash County Health Department.

In 2016, Nash County’s median family income was $43,804 versus $48,256 statewide. As a result, 55.8 percent of Nash County children live in low-income homes, whereas statewide that percentage is slightly less than half. Nash County also has substantial differences in education, with 19.6 percent of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 29 percent of residents statewide.

These social and economic measures contribute to higher infant deaths in the county. According to NC Child’s 2018 Data Cards, for every 1,000 live births in Nash County, almost 10 infants die before they reach their first birthday, This figure, which is based on 2016 data, places Nash County’s infant mortality rate at 19.4 percent higher than the statewide rate.

The money also will support the efforts of Nash Community College in providing SIDS Prevention and Pediatric Heartsaver CPR and first-aid training to 45 Nash County residents. The primary target population for the training will be Baby Love Plus Program participants, but it will be open to all Nash County residents.

Upon completion of the program, participants will receive a Pack & Play to ensure their infant has adequate sleep provisions. The funded project will begin on Nov. 1 and last for 18 months.

The mini-grant comes from the Dr. Ann F. Wolfe Endowment, which was established as a component fund of the N.C. Community Foundation. The stated purpose of the fund is to combat infant mortality and enhance child health.

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