Md. infant mortality rate is record low of 11% in '94 Prenatal care programs, projects discouraging teen pregnancy credited

September 29, 1995|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun Staff

Maryland's infant mortality rate, for many years among the worst in the nation, fell 11 percent last year to a record low.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which released new figures yesterday, credited programs that have discouraged teen-age pregnancy, ushered low-income women into prenatal care, and raised awareness of sudden infant death syndrome.

"Our state has been a leader in advancing a number of innovative strategies that we believe have had a positive impact on our infant mortality rate," said Health Secretary Martin P. Wasserman.

The rate measures the proportion of newborns who die in the first year of life. It is often seen as an important indicator of a city's or state's well-being because it is heavily influenced by forces such as income, education and access to health care.

Last year, Maryland's rate was 8.8 deaths per 1,000 live births -- down from 9.8 deaths per 1,000 a year earlier.

The rate among African American infants also declined -- from 17.5 deaths per 1,000 in 1993 to 15.2 deaths per 1,000 last year.

The improvements, nonetheless, gave the state little to boast about. The ranking places it 37th in the nation -- meaning that infant survival was better in 36 states, despite the fact that Maryland is home to premier health care institutions. The rate was also worse than the national rate of 7.9 deaths per 1,000.

Washington state had the lowest rate, 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, while South Dakota had the highest, 11.8 deaths per 1,000.

The District of Columbia did worse than any state -- 17.8 deaths per 1,000. In Baltimore, a city with a similar proportion of minority and low-income residents, the rate was 13.6 deaths per 1,000.

"Prevention and early intervention are at the heart of our efforts to improve the health and well-being of Maryland's children," said Dr. Linda Thompson, Special Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families.

She credited several state and city programs, including one that enlists women in low-income areas to speak to neighbors about the risks posed by smoking and drug abuse. The women also encourage expectant mothers to get prenatal care and to take advantage of subsidies.

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