Topeka — Health officials Wednesday issued recommendations aimed at reducing Kansas’ infant mortality rate, which is 20 percent higher than the national rate.
The recommendations include expanded data gathering and research; increased public awareness; and improvements in access to early prenatal care.
In 2007, the infant mortality rate in Kansas was 7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality.
Among African-American infants in Kansas, the mortality rate was twice the rate of whites and was the 47th highest in the nation. African-American infants represent 7 percent of births in Kansas and 17 percent of deaths.
“In order to improve Kansas’ infant mortality rate, the first step is to have a better understanding of what factors are contributing to this rate,” said Dr. Dennis Cooley, chair of the blue ribbon panel and president of the Kansas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Thirty years ago, Kansas’ infant mortality rate compared favorably with that of other states, the panel reported. But in recent years, Kansas’ rate has stagnated while the rest of the country’s rate declined. Kansas also has a higher rate than neighboring states.
Kansas Action for Children issued a report that said Kansas is missing out on federal funds to lower the infant mortality rate because of a lack of comprehensive data.
Both the organization and blue ribbon panel recommended that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment be given authority to collect and analyze information about infant deaths.
The leading causes of infant deaths in Kansas are congenital anomalies, pre-term birth and low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and maternal complications of pregnancy. Two-thirds of infant deaths are within the first 28 days of life.