Infant Mortality – Its Far Too Early to Celebrate

Last week, I got an email that made me really pause and take a deep breath.  It started like this…

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 AMCHP Celebrates 12 Percent Decline in U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Since 2005 – Calls for Continued Funding to Accelerate a Promising Trend

Washington, DC, April 17, 2013 – Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing that following a plateau from 2000 through 2005, the U.S. infant mortality rate declined 12 percent from 2005 through 2011. A copy of the data brief entitled Recent Declines in Infant Mortality in the United States, 2005–2011 is available here. 

Michael Fraser, PhD, CAE, Chief Executive Officer for the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, highlighted this progress with the following statement:”

Now… Before I get to the statement… In case you don’t know, AMCHP is the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.  Their mission “is to support state maternal and child health programs and provide national leadership on issues affecting women and children.” You can learn more about them and what they do by visiting their website.

Below is the statement from Michael Fraser.  I have included the statement here in its entirety along with some commentary from yours truly… My comments are in green 🙂

“The recent decline in infant mortality is a public health success story deserving national recognition and celebration. In short, we are helping more babies reach their first birthday than ever before and this is great news. (Sure its good news that the rates are declining but is this REALLY a time for celebration? I believe it’s far too early to celebrate.  Our Infant mortality rate remains high and our international standing remains embarrassingly low. This may be a time for reflection on what is working so progress can continue but celebration… I think it’s too soon for that.) The decline is also a strong indication that public health efforts supported by the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant – along with other critical programs including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, WIC, Healthy Start, Community Health Centers, and critical efforts of the CDC and the National Institutes of Health are making a difference in saving babies lives.  The work of dedicated public practitioners and health care providers is definitely paying off and, for that, AMCHP and its members are extremely thankful. (Interesting how this statement speaks to “critical programs” that nationwide are currently facing budget cuts. In Louisiana, where I live as an example, Healthy Start recently received a huge budget reduction (a  near 50% reduction from what I have been told) and the monies going to our state’s Nurse Family Partnership program were also cut.  Healthy Start across the country is facing budget cuts and many programs may not even continue to receive funding.  What’s going to happen as these programs are reduced further or cut out entirely? What will the numbers say in a few more years? I bet they will be begin to creep up especially if we take time to celebrate instead of continuing the fight.)  Perhaps most encouraging is that the infant mortality rate declined the most (16 percent) for non-Hispanic black women. This may be an indication that deliberate efforts to promote health equity are beginning to create progress in reducing the alarming disparities between whites and blacks, but despite improvement these gaps are still unacceptable and need heightened attention and investment to accelerate progress.   (Not only are the gaps still unacceptable, the disparity remains virtually unchanged. The infant mortality rate for black babies continues to be TWICE the rate of white babies… Are we celebrating too soon? I think so.) Furthermore, improvements realized in the last five years reflect investments policymakers made years and even decades before. While this improvement is welcome news, budget cuts coinciding with the economic downturn and the current sequestration cuts will undoubtedly create major challenges to sustain this success. (EXACTLY. That’s what I’m saying.  These budget cuts he speaks of will reduce this “progress”  so ummmmm riiiight…. Like I said… its far too early to celebrate.)  Accordingly, AMCHP calls on the administration and Congress to reverse years of eroded public health funding, agree on a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and sustain critical investments in the health of women, children, and families.”  (End of Statement)

And they do. In fact last month, Dr Christopher A. Kus, MD, MPH, testified on behalf of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) before the House of Representatives about stopping budget cuts and allocating $640 million to 2014 funding budge for the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services Block Grant. But the reality is, the budgets are getting cut and programs are being lost all across the country.  So as far as I’m concerned… Its definitely to early to celebrate. 

I will celebrate when the rates of infant mortality in ALL communities is at a minimum and there are no longer racial disparities.  I will celebrate when we have equal distribution of health services and resources across all boundaries. When access is not tied to race or socio-economic status and when all women have equal access and ability to create and nurture a healthy pregnancy.  I will celebrate when women, without fear or coercion, without jumping through managed care hoops, and regardless of her insurance carrier can easily choose the provider and location for HER birth.  Then and only then will I celebrate. When I see this reality, I will happily pop a bottle, light a candle, hire a second line band, shout from the roof tops and I might even “Drop it like its hot!!” Until then… The fight continues. #FistUP… Do you think its too early to celebrate?

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4 responses to “Infant Mortality – Its Far Too Early to Celebrate

  1. This really sucks. Celebrate what ? In the state of New Mexico, black folks are not even accounted for in data collection. The University of NewMexico did there own date collection, and African American population is 2.1% , and the infant mortality rate is 12.1% . And not all counties participated. This was collected last year. This is Nothing to celebrate this is horrible.

  2. I agree Nicole! FistUP we must continue this fight! Who are they giving this information to? We know what time it is in our communities, we need more foot soldiers to win this battle. Education is key!

  3. I agree that it is WAY TOO EARLY to celebrate. Recognize the reduction in infant mortality in order to identify what might be working, yes. But to think we’ve in any way won this fight? Ummm, notsomuch. Like you said, the disparities are sickeningly persistent and unacceptable and, internationally, our mortality and morbidity rates for moms and babies are unspeakable. None of this warrants celebration. This is exactly how we end up taking two steps forward and three steps back: by declaring “Mission Accomplished” and celebrating prematurely. Nose back to the grindstone and let’s keep up the fight!

    • I hear ya… that’s exactly how I felt when i read it. as you could tell LOL… Glad I’m not the only one. Initially I was like am I being synical here. Nope… nose back to the grindstone….

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