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Healthy Babies in NC: Start with Mothers, Say Experts

A report from NC Child recommends improved access to health coverage for women in order to increase the health of the state's babies. (
A report from NC Child recommends improved access to health coverage for women in order to increase the health of the state's babies. (
July 12, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. – Fewer babies are dying in North Carolina – with infant mortality decreasing by 40 percent in the last 20 years, according to a new report by the support group NC Child.

The organization says it also found that women's access to physical and mental health care plays a big role in promoting healthy births in the state.

With one in five women of reproductive age in the state uninsured, Laila Bell, NC Child’s director of research and data, says there is room for improvement when it comes to the health of the state's women and children.

"A woman's access to health insurance really does affect her ability not only to have that affordable preventative care that allows her to achieve and maintain her best health, but also in order for her to be able to access things like prenatal care and really get things like chronic diseases under control," she states.

Bell adds that half of the women of reproductive age without insurance fall in the coverage gap – making too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to benefit from subsidies from the Affordable Care Act.

Research shows that a variety of factors influences infant mortality, including social, economic and environmental conditions in their homes, and a woman's health before pregnancy is a strong predictor of the life of her child.

Bell points out that much of the 40 percent decrease in infant mortality seen in the last two decades comes from progress due to medical advances and public policy decisions that support babies born at risk.

The state's infant mortality rate has plateaued in the last five years, however, and Bell says action must be taken to change that.

"We need new strategies and when we look at the research and evidence we see that we have to start addressing some of these root causes of infant mortality,” she states. “One of which is the barriers to health care that really prevent women from being able to achieve and maintain their best health. "

The report recommends North Carolina join the 31 other states that have expanded access to Medicaid for low-income adults.

North Carolina remains among the states with the highest infant mortality rate – many of which are concentrated in the southeastern part of the country.

Reach Bell at 919-834-6623 x225. Link to NC Child report:

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC