FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Health care professionals and government officials from across the state are trying to address the large number of Kentucky babies that die in their first year of life.
The Courier-Journal reports (http://cjky.it/YXHqIv) that at the Governor's Summit on Infant Mortality last week, officials said nearly 14 percent of Kentucky babies are born prematurely. And hospitalizations for babies born addicted to drugs rose by 2,400 percent between 2000 and 2011.
Both of those problems contribute to an infant mortality rate in Kentucky that is higher than that of Cuba, Croatia or Slovakia.
Ruth Shepherd is division director for maternal and child health in the state Department for Public Health. She said in an interview that gains in lowering the infant mortality rate in the 1970s and 1980s were tied to improvements in medical technology. Now, many of the factors contributing to infant mortality are stubborn societal problems such as poverty, lack of education and drug abuse.
Despite the daunting nature of the problem, state officials are working on solutions.
Shepherd said the state's Health Access Nurturing Development Services, or HANDS program, has been successful by teaming up new and expectant parents with mentors.
The state health department also is partnering with the March of Dimes, Medicaid managed care organizations and birthing hospitals in an initiative to prevent elective deliveries before 39 weeks' gestation. The Kentucky Hospital Association hopes to reduce the rate of early elective deliveries to no more than 3 percent by the end of 2013.
And health officials are working to get more drug-addicted mothers into treatment.
Dr. Henrietta Bada, of the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics, called the efforts to solve the problem of drug-addicted babies "a big mess." She said medical professionals and policymakers need to re-examine the problem and provide more support for mothers, families and babies.
To make progress, she said, "we have to all work together."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com