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‘Saving Lives’

Health Board launches infant mortality initiative

Special photo: Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan (right), Clayton County’s district health director, presents an Angel Ride(TM) Infant Car Bed to Southern Regional's Jackie Lawson, during the Clayton County Board of Health’s recent “Perinatal Coalition” launch meeting.

Special photo: Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan (right), Clayton County’s district health director, presents an Angel Ride(TM) Infant Car Bed to Southern Regional's Jackie Lawson, during the Clayton County Board of Health’s recent “Perinatal Coalition” launch meeting.

Officials with the Clayton County Board of Health are making it a priority to improve the health of infants county-wide.

To that end, the board recently launched the Clayton County Perinatal and Infant Health Coalition, in collaboration with several other organizations, in an effort to improve the infant mortality rate, and decrease the number of low-birth-weight babies born in the county.

The launch meeting took place last month at the Morrow Center, and the next meeting of stakeholders is scheduled for Oct. 12 , at 10 a.m., at the Clayton County Board of Health, which is located at 1117 Battlecreek Road, in Jonesboro.

During the launch meeting, the county’s district health director, Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, shared some sobering concerns about the state of infant health in Clayton County.

“In 2007,” Bryan said, “Clayton County’s overall infant mortality rate spiked to 10.6 deaths out of every 1,000 births, from 8.3 deaths per 1,000 births the previous year. While Clayton’s rate is slowly stabilizing, it has consistently been higher than the state average, which has remained around 8 deaths per 1,000 births.”

To help push this new initiative, the board is recruiting members of the community to join the coalition that, so far, includes: The Clayton County Collaborative Authority Inc., Emory University, The March of Dimes, United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, Southern Regional Medical Center, and the House of Dawn.

The emphasis will largely be on coming up with a long-term strategy to improve the infant mortality rate, and find ways to attack the disturbing rates of low-birth-weight babies, and premature births.

According to studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infant mortality rates are an accurate measure of the health and well-being of populations across and within countries. Since 2002, Clayton County’s infant mortality rate has been consistently higher than the state average, Bryan said.

In light of this information, she said, “Too many babies in Clayton County are born too small, too sick, or too soon.”

In recent years, she said, the Clayton County Board of Health has worked closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Information and Policy, to determine the area, or areas, in Clayton County where people are experiencing the highest numbers of infant deaths.

“This coalition will allow local stakeholders to share strategies that may be useful in tackling perinatal and infant health issues,” said Bryan.

As the launch meeting concluded –– according to a statement from the board of health –– participants followed Bryan down a path lined with pink and blue, child-sized footprints, and signed their names to a Pledge of Commitment affirming their promise to “assist in identifying strategies and developing solutions to decrease the number of fetal and infant deaths in our community over the next five years.”

Person’s interested in attending the next coalition meeting, on Oct. 12, can call Twanna Nelson, at (678) 610-7298, or e-mail her at twannanelson@dhr.state.ga.us., for more information.