September 26, 2011 8:27:00 AM
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- New figures show teen births and infant deaths in Mississippi at their lowest levels in decades.
Teen births in the state fell nearly 900 last year to 6,185 -- the lowest since 1980 -- and the 386 infant deaths may be the lowest number on record, The Clarion-Ledger reported.
But Dr. Glen Graves, a pediatrician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who has been working with the program to reduce infant mortality, said it will take time to know whether the drop in infant mortality really means anything.
"A drop is nice, but it's not like a revolutionary change. The last time we had a drop it went right back up," he said.
The total number of births in the state was below 40,000 for the first time since 1918.
Because Mississippi continues to have the nation's highest death rate for babies less than a year old, the state Department of Health is starting an "ABCs" campaign, said Dr. Mary Currier, the state health officer.
The initials stand for putting babies to sleep Alone on their Backs in the Crib with no Smoking nearby. "Alone" means without stuffed toys, blankets or pillows.
Because of infant mortality and other challenges, Currier is seeking a $4 million increase in state funds in the next fiscal year to maintain current core public health activities. Last year, state lawmakers let the Health Department use carryover tobacco funds to help maintain those programs.
Low birthweight plays a big role in infant mortality in Mississippi, Currier said. "We have a very high rate of low birthweight babies, which is the less than 1,500 grams (2.5 pounds). That is 2 percent of our births and 47 percent of our deaths."
The state has done a good job of making sure mothers get prenatal care, she said. About 97 percent of mothers begin receiving prenatal care between their first and second trimester, she said.
A pilot program that began enrolling more than 100 Mississippi mothers in 2009 is seeking to improve their health before they become pregnant again. Early data suggest the program is working, she said.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
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