For Immediate Release
October 2, 2012

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

2011 KDHE Data: Kansas Infant Mortality Rate Drops to 6.2 per 1,000

Local, State Initiatives Focus on Research, Intervention

TOPEKA, Kan.Kansas infant mortality findings and a discussion on the 2011 statistics were published today in a research brief by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics.

The number of infant deaths to Kansas residents dropped from 253 in year 2010 to 247 in 2011. This resulted in an infant mortality rate of 6.2 per 1,000 live births. This is slightly lower than the rate of 6.3 in 2010. The 2011 rate of 6.2 was the lowest infant mortality rate in Kansas
since record keeping began in Kansas in 1912. Most of the decreases in infant deaths occurred among Hispanics and multi race non-Hispanic infants, who, during the previous time period (2009-2010), had shown an increase. Infant deaths in the White non-Hispanic group and the Black non-Hispanic group increased in 2011 by eight and two, respectively, but remain lower than they were in 2009.

The research brief can be found online at http://www.kdheks.gov/hci/infant_mortality.htm.

Infant mortality is a complex issue with many contributing factors. The leading causes of infant deaths in Kansas are birth defects, preterm and low-weight births, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and maternal complications of pregnancy. Kansas has many local- and state-level organizations committed to reducing infant mortality through research and community intervention.

KDHE is one of more than 20 organizations in the State of Kansas represented on the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality. This panel was formed in 2009 to review the problem of infant mortality and identify potential solutions and recommendations. It’s made up of experts in maternal and child health who work to raise awareness about infant mortality and to bring resources together that help advance research into the causes of infant deaths.

During the month of September (Infant Mortality Awareness Month), 70 preconception peer educators in Kansas were trained with the tools necessary to develop and provide community outreach education activities throughout next year. To accomplish this, Healthy Babies Inc. with the Sedgwick County Health Department, Mother & Child Health Coalition in the Kansas City metro area and the Kansas African American Affairs Commission each led community-based planning teams to deliver the U.S. Office of Minority Health’s preconception peer educators training.

Since 2010, the Sedgwick County Health Department has administered the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) process, which uses in-person interviews matched with other research methods and support programs in determining the community-level factors associated with fetal or infant death. Currently, Sedgwick County is the only Kansas community to employ FIMR, but health officials and advocates are working to expand its use in the state.

Kansas organizations are observing SIDS Awareness Month this October. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise healthy baby. Of the 247 Kansas infant deaths 2011, 31 were attributed to SIDS and the category “other sleep-related deaths.” Nationally, SIDS has decreased significantly since 1994 when the National Institute of Health initiated the Back to Sleep campaign. This year, the national SIDS campaign entered a new phase, encompassing all sleep-related, sudden, unexpected infant deaths. Thus, the Back to Sleep campaign has been renamed the Safe to Sleep campaign. In addition to stressing the placement of infants on their backs for all sleep times, the new Safe to Sleep campaign emphasizes other ways to provide a safe sleep environment for infants.  

As a direct response to the alarming rate of infant mortality in our state, the Kansas Chapter of American Academy of Pediatricians, Safe Kids Kansas, SIDS Network and KDHE collaborated to create the video ABC’s of Safe Sleep for Babies (Alone, on the Back, in a Crib). The video can be found at www.safesleepkansas.org.

In November, maternal and child health experts and advocates will promote Prematurity Awareness Month. The March of Dimes Kansas Chapter has scheduled several educational and fundraising events around this observance. On Nov. 7, writer and producer Tonya Lewis Lee, the national spokesperson for the U.S. Office of Minority Health’s A Healthy Baby Begins with You campaign, will deliver a keynote presentation at the March of Dimes Perinatal Conference.

Related resources: To learn more about the Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality, visit www.kansasinfantmortality.org. The State Child Death Review Board examines trends and patterns that identify risk factors in the deaths of children, from birth through 17 years of age; find their information at http://ag.ks.gov/about-the-office/affiliated-orgs/scdrb. For more information on the March of Dimes’ prematurity awareness activities, go to www.marchofdimes.com/kansas/events/events.html or email ddaldrup@marchofdimes.com. The website for Mother & Child Health Coalition is www.mchc.net.