Alabama seeks to lower infant death rate with "State of Champion - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Alabama seeks to lower infant death rate with "State of Champions" program

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(WTVM) -

Alabama ranks as one of the top states for the percentage of children who die within their first year of life, and now government officials are determined to reduce the infant mortality rate with a program called "State of Champions."

"I've delivered many babies in my internship and residency," says Alabama Governor, Robert Bentley. "I know things can go wrong very quickly."

Alabama's infant mortality rate rose from 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 8.9 deaths in 2012 where the national average is around 6 deaths each year.

Cheryl Adams, Lactation Specialist at the East Alabama Medical Center, says, "Sometimes we don't have access to early educational opportunities with some of the more rural populations. So I think the network of hospitals and prenatal care providers are trying to come together under this program to really be able to fill those gaps, and help reach the populations that are a little more under-served."

Some components of the State of Champions Program includes providing cribs to low-income families, expanding a smoking cessation program for pregnant women, and reducing the number of unintended births by advocating a long-acting reversible contraception to new mothers who want it before they leave the hospital.

"Because of convenience, people like to induce before the 39th week, and statistics show if you induce before the 39th week, the number of babies that have to be placed in the neonatal intensive care unit goes up significantly," says Bentley.

"I think it's a great way for the state to get all the hospitals that do maternity care or prenatal care in a consistent patter with education and how we help our new moms and babies in the state of Alabama," explains Adams.

The East Alabama Medical Center offers many different programs for mom and baby before leaving the hospital, including the Best Fed Beginning Initiative to encourage breast feeding and skin-to-skin or Kangaroo Care.

"Educating new mothers about the importance of not only taking care of themselves, but how they initially interact with their baby," says Adams.

The State Department of Public Health is distributing $2.5 million to the program this year and hopes the governor and Legislature will provide $4 million for next year.

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