By Joel Hall
Out of 159 counties in Georgia, Clayton County ranks third in the number of infant deaths, following Muscogee and Bibb counties.
Twenty-two out of 1,000 children in Clayton County, the majority of them African American, never live to see their first birthday.
The Clayton County Board of Health (BOH), along with the Clayton County Rotary Club, highlighted the need to have a countywide dialogue on the subject and discussed several efforts being made to improve the birth outcomes of children in Clayton County.
Veronda Griffin, public information officer and maternal and child health planner for the BOH, gave a presentation before the Rotary Club on Wednesday afternoon at the Holiday Inn in Jonesboro. She said several socioeconomic factors may have contributed to a rise infant deaths and that the county must work together to address the root cause of the problem.
"There are a lot of disparages in the races in regards to pregnancy and we are trying to fill in the gaps," said Griffin. "We're finding that African American babies [in Clayton County] are dying three times more than other babies. We want to look at the risk factors."
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.78 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004, the latest year the data is available for all countries. In an effort to reduce Clayton County's infant mortality rate, the BOH recently started M.O.M.S. (Making Our Mothers Successful), an initiative to educate young women about reproductive health issues.
Griffin said many mothers in Clayton County lose their babies due to avoidable behaviors, such as smoking and not consuming enough folic acid during pregnancy.
"There are a lot of things going on," said Griffin. "A lot of women may be in denial that they are pregnant ... they may have an unhealthy relationship with the father.
"A lot of women don't have support groups," Griffin added. "We need to talk to women. This information is kind of gloomy to some people, but this information is needed to improve the overall health of the county."
Ron Corbin, president of the Clayton County Rotary Club, said he was "completely shocked" to learn about the county's high infant mortality rate. He believes that out of the meeting, the Rotary Club and the BOH will be able to start a grassroots effort to address the problem.
"As Rotarians, we deal on a worldwide basis in Third World countries where we expect the infant mortality rate to be high," said Corbin. "You don't really think of your own country as having these same health issues.
"We would like to see a program develop from our group ... that can impact the county and take us off that list."