Infant Mortality Awareness Month is quickly approaching, and September is that time of year that we remember those babies who were born alive but did not live long enough to celebrate their first birthday. We honor those Mothers and Families who never had the opportunity to plan a first Birthday party and watch their child blow out the single candle on a cake. On September 21st at 11:00 a.m., 46 empty strollers will be pushed through downtown Greensboro, ending in Center City Park, to represent each baby that died last year. The Coalition is partnering with community agencies, One Main Financial, and North Carolina Baby Love Plus, and Mayor Nancy Vaughan will provide opening remarks for this event.

Guilford County lost 46 babies in 2015 – that’s close to one baby every week. While we have reduced the infant mortality rate from 13.4 in 1988 to 7.5 in 2015, one baby’s death is too many. Guilford County is fortunate that all women have access to prenatal care through private insurance, Medicaid or the Adopt-A-Mom Program (safety net for women who are Medicaid ineligible and lack resources to pay for prenatal care).   Women who give birth without the benefit of prenatal care are 3 times more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby – a leading cause of Infant mortality in Guilford County. Low birth weight is a key indicator for morbidity as well as lifelong developmental challenges, cognitive development, and intellectual performance. This has devastating consequences and this should be a community wide concern. Early intervention during the critical window of brain development in utero is essential to developing healthy brain architecture later. Children born prematurely are 61% more likely to have serious emotional/behavioral problems, 33% higher risk of depression, 58% higher risk of anxiety as compared to full term children.

Preconception Health and prenatal care for pregnant women must be the standard.   “Healthy women are more likely to give birth to healthy babies, so let’s support women before they get pregnant to celebrate being a healthy Mother when they are ready”, says Charmaine Purdum, Coordinator for the Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality. All women of child bearing age should consume 400 micrograms of Folic Acid daily; every day for some day they hope to be a mother. Families need to plan and space their children 2 years apart for optimum health, and early and adequate prenatal care is essential. Healthy food choices, moving more, and supporting pregnant women to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and exposure to second hand smoke are messages we can share in September and throughout the year. Women who have had a previous preterm delivery should inquire if they are a candidate for 17 P, a weekly injection that has been shown to significantly reduce a subsequent delivery prematurely. Children should be placed on their back to sleep and properly immunized against preventable diseases. And all children should be restrained properly in child safety seats when riding in a car, and children should never be left unattended in a vehicle, regardless of the outside temperature.

Babies truly are our future, and as a community, we must work together to ensure a healthy and bright future for all. Let us forever remember these precious lives cut short, and vow to keep infant mortality awareness at the forefront, not only in September, but all year long in the effort to save our babies.

For more information on reducing infant mortality including programs and services for women, contact Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services at 336-641-7777.

Submitted by Charmaine Purdum, Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality Coordinator