Infant deaths down in Mississippi

Published 7:00 am Friday, November 27, 2015

Mississippi’s infant mortality rate has hit an all-time low.

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, the infant mortality rate between 2005 and 2014 shows a decrease by 15 percent from 2013 and a 28 percent decrease since 2005. Cathy Files, executive director for Mississippi SIDS and Infant Safety Alliance, said safe sleep education has contributed to the infant mortality drop.

“It’s education. We’ve got to get the education out there to let parents and caregivers know how to keep infants safe when sleeping,” Files said.

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But unsafe sleeping is not the only cause of child death. In Mississippi, preterm births are the leading cause of infant mortality. Most hospitals in Mississippi have pledged to eliminate early elective deliveries unless necessary, which resulted in the state receiving the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Award this year for successfully lowering the preterm birth rate by 11 percent since 2009.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is one of the primary causes of infant mortality, according to the MSDH.

There are currently educational programs available to educate parents about safe sleep environments for their infants, Files said. One of those programs is called the Cribs for Kids National Infant Safe Sleep Initiative, which provides portable cribs to families who can’t afford a safe place to put their babies to sleep. To find the nearest chapter, visit

Many hospitals statewide, including Highland Community Hospital, are working to encourage safe sleeping practices and lower cases of SIDS.

In March, Highland Community Hospital was one of the Mississippi hospitals that received an award for their Safe Sleep Campaign from the alliance and the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Committee. Participating hospitals utilize videos, brochures and instructional demonstrations to teach new parents about safe sleeping practices for their infants, Files said.

“There’s a lot of hospitals doing the safe sleep program across the state. That’s making a difference; they’re reaching the families before they leave the hospital. We can’t guarantee what parents will do when they get home, but at least they have the education necessary,” Files said.

While the state of Mississippi has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the United State, education is key.

“Thanks in part to special funding provided by the state legislature, Mississippi is doing more than ever to address the issue of infant mortality by working with partners to reduce preterm births, eliminate tobacco use by and around pregnant women, and prevent sleep-related deaths,” State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said in the press release. “We continue to work to improve our birth outcomes through outreach, education and improved access to care.”

For more information on healthy pregnancies, visit