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Infant Mortality Rates Remain Steady

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

According to the latest statistics available, New York’s rate has remained relatively steady since 2010 but unfortunately, 5 out of every 1,000 births in New York result in infant death, according to the State Department of Health.

Some good news on this front is infant mortality rates have decreased about 16% from 2002 to 2012 but there is still more we can do to continue to improve those rates.

Experts track many causes of infant mortality including SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), unintentional injury, perinatal period (prior to birth and immediately following birth) conditions, birth defects, heart disease, stomach problems like gastritis, and homicide.

Many in our local region are actively working to improve the statistics where possible through medicine, education, and outreach.

Infant mortality rates are also tracked by counties.

In Oswego County, the rate in 2012 was 4.2 per 1,000; in Jefferson County, the rate was 7.3; and in Onondaga County, the rate was 5.8.

Health experts consider infant mortality indicators as a measure of a community’s overall health because the statistics consider maternal health, access to healthcare, smoking rates, and abuse or violence.

It’s important to have this information to be able to improve the odds.

In 2013, New York enacted a law that required birthing facilities across the state to test newborns for congenital heart defects through the use of pulse oximetry.

Pulse oximetry is an inexpensive and non-invasive test that measures a baby’s blood oxygenation levels.

This law helped ensure that infants are screened before they leave the hospital.

I was pleased to be a sponsor of this bill in the Assembly.

Prior to this bill becoming law, many hospitals were already performing this test but now it is a requirement.

If infants demonstrate low blood oxygenation levels, a doctor is alerted that further testing is needed.

Low levels could be symptoms of a heart defect.

Another initiative is the Safe to Sleep program, formerly known as Back to Sleep.

This has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control as a way to keep babies safe while they sleep.

This includes putting them on their backs to sleep.

Experts also recommend removing all pillows and not using crib bumpers.

They also recommend having the baby share your room, not your bed, and to prevent exposure to smoking during pregnancy and after birth because these are important risk factors for SIDS.

This year, the Assembly passed legislation that would require information be provided to maternity patients on safe sleeping, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While many hospitals provide this information already, the bill would require that all hospitals provide information, similarly to information required to be provided concerning shaken baby syndrome and maternal depression.

The information would be included in a leaflet. This legislation did not pass the Senate this year.

Upstate Medical University assists the region in data collection and manages the Central New York Fetal-Infant Mortality/Morbidity Review/Registry by working with area hospitals.

Researchers report that Central New York has unacceptably high rates of poor pregnancy outcome, especially among the racial/ethnic/socio-economically disadvantaged minorities.

It is hoped that with good data, the rates can be improved through education, outreach, and better healthcare.

Expectant families can seek resources through their OB/GYN.

In addition, in Oswego County, expectant families who seek healthcare or have parenting questions may call the Oswego County Opportunities’ Options Program at 315-342-7532.

In Onondaga County, residents may reach Children and Family services by calling 315-435-2884.

In Jefferson County, residents may call the Community Action Planning Council at 315-782-4900.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.