Award recognizes efforts to reduce infant mortality

Oakland County’s success in halving infant mortality rates in the African-American community is receiving statewide recognition. The Michigan Association of Local Public Health (MALPH) and Michigan Public Health Association (MPHA) bestowed their 2014 Public Health Community Achievement Award upon the county’s Health Division for its initiatives to reduce infant mortality.

In 2000-2002, it was discovered that the African-American infant death rate in Oakland County was 21 per 1,000 live births – more than four times the Caucasian infant death rate for the same period. County Executive L. Brooks Patterson directed the Health Division to commit significant resources, time and staff to reducing infant mortality.

Health Division worked with its partners to launch a variety of programs that subsequently reduced the African-American infant death rate to 10.6 per 1,000 live births by 2009-2012. The overall disparity in the Oakland County African-American infant mortality rate dropped from 4.9 to 1.9 times the Caucasian infant death rate.

“There is more work to be done, but it is evident that the Health Division and its partners have made a significant difference over the past decade,” Patterson said. “Reducing infant mortality is one of many ways our Health Division collaborates with public and private partners to improve public health.”

The Health Division began this work by initiating the Focused Infant Mortality Plan in 2000. A large community action coalition called Best Start for Babies Oakland County was formed to oversee many activities aimed at reducing the infant mortality disparity. They included public health nurse home visits to families that may not have regular access to healthcare, nutrition services, breast feeding education, safe sleep training, and parenting instruction.

“The county’s commitment to reducing disparities to infant mortality continues today,” said Kathy Forzley, manager/health officer of the Health Division. “The partnership model has been so successful we are extending it to address other issues such as improving access to healthcare for homeless families and enabling low-income families to access healthy food.”

For more information about reducing infant mortality, go to www.oakgov.com/health and click on the Best Start for Babies Oakland County link on the lower right hand side of the page.