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Minnesota Outlines Plan to Reduce Infant Mortality

PHOTO: The Minnesota Department of Health has detailed its new efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate, as hundreds of babies die in the state each year before they reach the age of one. Photo credit: Cody/Flickr.
PHOTO: The Minnesota Department of Health has detailed its new efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate, as hundreds of babies die in the state each year before they reach the age of one. Photo credit: Cody/Flickr.
May 7, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Every year, several hundred babies statewide die before they reach their first birthday and a new plan from the Minnesota Department of Health aims to reduce those numbers.

Commissioner Ed Ehlinger says while Minnesota does have one of the lowest overall infant mortality rates in the nation, more work must be done, especially with the persistent and large disparity among races.

"Populations of color and American Indians are not benefiting from all the things we have in our state to a level that they should," says Ehlinger. "So as we become an increasingly diverse state, if we don't deal with the disparities, our infant mortality rate is not going to be able to keep up with improvements in the rest of the country."

The infant mortality rate in Minnesota for whites is about four deaths per 1,000 births, while the rates for African-Americans and American Indians are both more than double that.

Ehlinger notes, healthy birth outcomes are strongly influenced by social and economic factors, so reducing infant mortality and closing the racial gaps will require addressing those determinants.

"We are talking about security of neighborhoods, economic security, housing stability, educational levels," says Ehlinger. "Things that really are impacted by a whole variety of factors including poverty, racism, segregation and economic development."

Other broad recommendations in the plan include reducing the number of teen pregnancies and lowering the rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths. More targeted tactics will be outlined when a second phase of the plan is released later this year.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN