The Oklahoma State Department of Health this week announced the state’s infant mortality rate (IMR) has decreased by more than 18 percent since beginning a statewide infant mortality reduction program in 2007. The IMR was 8.2 in 2005-2007, dropping to 6.7 in 2018-2020.

“Approximately 50 more babies a year in Oklahoma are able to spend their first birthday with their families!” said Joyce Marshall, director of maternal and child health service. “Oklahoma continues to take positive steps to reduce infant deaths through the work of many dedicated partners and individuals.” 

This accomplishment is the result of multiple programs like Preparing for a Lifetime: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, a statewide initiative celebrating its 12th anniversary in September – which is also Infant Mortality Awareness Month. The initiative includes numerous strategies designed to improve birth outcomes and reduce disparities for Oklahoma’s mothers and babies. Key messages include:

• Being healthy before, during and between pregnancies greatly improves the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

• Encouraging women of reproductive age to take a multivitamin daily containing 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects – the #1 cause of infant death in Oklahoma. 

• Having a full-term pregnancy and breastfeeding offers a baby the best start in life.  

• Recognizing the signs and getting help for maternal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression (PPD), can improve health for both mother and baby.  

• Placing baby on his/her back to sleep alone in a safe crib and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

• Individuals who want to quit smoking can call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free services. 

• Knowing how to prevent leading causes of injury, such as correctly installing infant car seats, helps keep baby safe and secure. 

• Learning what to do if the baby will not stop crying may help prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome.

“As we continue to improve in critical areas such as breastfeeding, smoking, infant safe sleep practices and prenatal care, we are encouraged by the reduction in infant mortality,” Marshall said. “We acknowledge that there is still work to be done to achieve equity and the national Healthy People 2030 objective of 5.0, but thrilled that more of our babies are being saved.”

Improvements in priorities, including significant decreases in the rate of teen births and smoking rates among pregnant women have also contributed to fewer infant deaths.

To learn more about Preparing for a Lifetime: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, visit http://iio.health.ok.gov.

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