State Health Officials Committed to Reducing Prematurity and Infant Mortality

April is Minority Health Month

MADISON—During National Minority Health Month, state health officials reaffirmed the state’s commitment to reducing rates of premature birth and infant mortality statewide, and especially among minorities.

“During this month when we focus attention on minority health, we continue our efforts to improve women’s health before pregnancy, increase access to health care, reduce smoking rates and encourage fewer elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy to improve infant health outcomes,” said Karen McKeown, Wisconsin Division of Public Health Administrator.

During 2008-2010, the prematurity rate for each racial/ethnic minority group in Wisconsin exceeded that of whites, with the highest rate for African American mothers, for whom 17% of infants are born early. Among African Americans, the leading causes of infant death are preterm birth and low birthweight. For the past three decades, African American infants have been two to four times as likely to die before their first birthday as infants born to white women.

McKeown highlighted these state programs that target premature birth and infant mortality:

Working with Medicaid HMOs in southeast Wisconsin to promote and support medical homes for high-risk pregnant women to ensure a more comprehensive approach to care, including care coordination and home visits;

Partnering with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF), a $10 million multi-year effort to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes;

Working with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care, and other partners to encourage women to avoid scheduling induced deliveries or cesarean sections before 39 weeks of pregnancy when not medically necessary;

Working to reduce prematurity by 8% between 2009 and 2014, and participating in the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Healthy Babies President’s Challenge;

Collaborating with the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation to encourage and assist women to quit smoking through programs like the Striving to Quit initiative for eligible individuals enrolled in Medicaid, and asking others to reduce secondhand smoke near pregnant women and infants;

Collaborating with the Department of Children and Families on home visiting throughout the state to provide health services and social support to high-risk families;

Working with partners statewide, including the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, to reduce infant and childhood deaths and promote safe sleep environments for infants, emphasizing messages like “back to sleep” and “sharing a room, but not a bed;”

Promoting text4baby, a free text message program for pregnant women and new mothers that sends text messages on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and early childhood health during the first year of a child’s life. Participants sign up by texting “BABY” (“BEBE” in Spanish) to 511411.

For information on programs and resources to reduce prematurity and infant mortality, and improve infant health: