Governor Martin O'Malley today announced that Maryland's infant mortality rate hit a new record low in 2012, driven largely by a reduction in the African American infant mortality rate.
Governor O'Malley made the announcement joined by Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, representatives from the Baltimore City Health Department and other officials during a visit to the Baltimore Medical System's Highlandtown Healthy Living Center. The Governor announced the infant mortality rate in 2012 was 6.3 per 1,000 live births, down six percent from 2011. The mortality rate for African American infants declined by 14 percent, to 10.3 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate fell by 21 percent between 2008 and 2012, which translates to 159 fewer infant deaths in 2012 than in 2008.
"We've worked aggressively to save the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable," said Governor O'Malley. "Last year, we drove down our infant mortality rate to a record low. In 2012, we lost 159 fewer babies than in 2008. Since 2008, we've saved the lives of 368 babies by driving down the infant mortality rate by 21 percent -- more than double our original goal to reduce infant mortality by 10 percent. But there is still more work to be done. Only by making better choices can we achieve better results and save lives."
The O'Malley-Brown Administration set a goal of reducing Maryland's infant mortality rate 10 percent by 2012. After this goal was reached, the Administration set a new goal to reduce our statewide infant mortality rate an additional 10 percent by 2017 as well as to reduce the African American infant mortality rate by 10 percent by 2017. While any one year's infant mortality rate can be variable, the goal is for the trend to show an overall decline.
"We owe a great debt of gratitude to our State's health care providers for working with us to continue driving down the infant mortality rate to the lowest levels in State history," said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. "While we still have work to do to reduce disparities facing too many of our communities, by using innovative incentives and programs such as Health Enterprise Zones, the B'More for Healthy Babies "Sleep Safe' campaign and home visiting, I am optimistic that we will continue to reduce the infant mortality rate and save the lives of more young Marylanders."
"Fewer infants are dying in Maryland than ever before," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "We are moving forward with a new set of efforts to make additional progress."
The infant mortality rate in Baltimore City in 2012 was 9.7, down from 10.5 in 2011, with the African American infant mortality rate falling to 12.6 in 2012 from 14.5 in 2011.
"We are appreciative of the administration's support under Governor O'Malley and Secretary Sharfstein to help us reduce the infant mortality rate, which remains one of the most significant public health problems facing Baltimore City," said Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, PhD, Deputy Commissioner , Division of Health Promotions and Disease Prevention for the Baltimore City Health Department. "State leaders have shown the vision that maternal and child health is central to the health and welfare of Baltimore City and the State of Maryland. The programs we have in place are making a positive difference across our communities and we need to continue with these efforts as we strive for an even larger decrease in infant mortality rates. Sadly, far too many Baltimore babies are still not living to see their first birthday and many of these deaths are preventable."
Many factors have contributed to the decline in infant mortality rates in recent years, including expanded health care access for young women and parents and expanded access to family planning services, local public health efforts, and promoting safe sleep practices. The state's Babies Born Healthy Initiative includes new Comprehensive Women's Health services for women at risk, Accelerated Certification of Eligibility for pregnant women seeking Medicaid coverage, community-based "perinatal navigators" to help pregnant and postpartum women access services, and referrals from birthing hospitals to local health departments for follow-up of high-risk mothers and infants. The State has continued to distribute the B'More for Healthy Babies video on safe sleep athttp://healthybabiesbaltimore.com. In addition, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently banned the sale of crib bumper pads in Maryland, after receiving public and expert input that the risks of these products far exceed any potential benefits for babies.
This year, the state's first five Health Enterprise Zones launched, beginning efforts to bring targeted resources and investment to areas with disproportionately high rates of chronic disease. The innovative state program aims to increase access to care and improve outcomes in order to reduce health disparities.
Additionally, the state's Health Benefits Exchange, Maryland Health Connection, which begins open enrollmentOctober 1, 2013, will enable individuals and families to shop for health coverage and will allow them to find out if they qualify for subsidies or expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.