City infant mortality targeted

12 neighborhoods to get services for parents

Sun Exclusive

April 08, 2009|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,

Acknowledging that infants in Baltimore are dying at an "alarming" rate, city officials will outline plans Wednesday to prevent premature births, low birth-weight babies and deaths from unsafe sleeping habits by offering intensive services in targeted neighborhoods.

"These are babies we should be able to save," said Jackie Duval-Harvey, a deputy health commissioner.

The goal is to make sure that all new and expectant parents in 12 chosen neighborhoods get a wide variety of services, including health care before birth and home visits after, and the promotion of breast feeding, as well as education about safe sleeping habits. Babies not only need to be placed on their backs but also should sleep alone in a crib to keep from suffocating.

The program, to begin Oct. 1, is to be financed with money set aside for fighting infant mortality and promoting baby wellness. It will also use a $3 million contribution from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield over three years. By the end of that time, officials hope to reduce the rates of pre-term births and low birth-weight babies by 10 percent and the number of deaths from unsafe sleep by at least 30 percent, according to a report by the Health Department and others being released Wednesday.

"It's important because when we can bring babies into life healthy and follow them and track them through their lives ... it brings better results long term," Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon said Tuesday.

In 2007, 112 babies from Baltimore died before their first birthdays, according to the Health Department. Of those, 106 were born to African-American mothers. The rate of infant death in the city - which is far above the state average - is "higher than the rates of some developing countries," the report states.

"The cost of poor birth outcomes can be measured in medical expenses, lost productivity and social injustice," it says.

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