Washington, a city where the infant mortality rate has declined steadily in the past decade from the highest level in the nation, will be home to a model program aimed at reducing child deaths even further.
“We have worked hard to increase access to care and improve the quality of services to infants and their parents throughout the District, and our infant-mortality rate has reached historic lows — but our work is not yet done,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said in a statement announcing the effort, which was launched from the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. “We are equipping our government agencies and community partners to think innovatively and become champions of coordinated and effective care for expecting mothers.”
The infant mortality rate in the District is 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. The goal of “Stronger 2gether — One City 4 Healthier Babies,” a joint partnership between the city and the consulting firm Aegis Health Security, is to reduce that rate to five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2020.
The program will involve education on best practices for prenatal care and post-birth sleeping, better patient services, treatment for substance abuse and smoking addiction, and the use of a synthetic hormone that may help prevent women who have given birth before term from doing so again. Forty partners from CGI, which connects political leaders and non-governmental organizations with philanthropists, will offer support.
The District’s infant mortality rate was the highest in the country in 2005, at 14.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Over five years, that rate declined by 44 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The drop was attributed by D.C. officials to pregnant women smoking less, fewer teenagers having babies and women having better access to prenatal care. Extra home visits in high-poverty areas, a program expanded under former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), was a major factor.
But the District’s rate remains higher than the U.S. average of six deaths per 1,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate in the United States overall is higher than that of other industrialized countries.
Birth defects, disorders related to premature birth, and sudden infant death syndrome are the leading causes of infant mortality.