Each year, one in 100 babies born in this country dies before its first birthday, an infant mortality rate higher than that in most every other country in the industrialized world. In Maryland, the statistics are more troubling: Here, 11.3 babies out of 1,000 die before age 1. The rate is even higher in Baltimore city, where 17.43 out of every 1,000 newborns die within a year after birth. A new study from the Children's Defense Fund ranks Baltimore city third in the nation in infant deaths for cities its size -- with the worst infant mortality rate for white babies and the seventh-worst for black babies.
The problems underlying these statistics are diverse. Some babies, for instance, are born perilously underweight because their mothers are drug-addicted; some because their mothers are malnourished. Some mothers are carriers of AIDS; some smoke and drink their way through a pregnancy they never wanted in the first place. The barriers to receiving prenatal care vary as well -- from inadequate public transportation and lack of day care for other children to poverty, ignorance or simple lack of a public health clinic. Clearly, the traditional, broad-brush approaches to reducing infant death rates are simply not working.