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September is for babies.

Byline: The Register-Guard

There are a lot of "special months" dedicated to various health conditions, all worthwhile and all important. Raising awareness is a crucial step on the road to developing effective treatments and building community support.

That's why Lane County has chosen September to highlight the troubling problem of infant mortality. By designating September as Local Infant Mortality Month, county public health officials hope to draw more attention to the alarming rate at which babies are dying here.

The significance of infant mortality as a health barometer was apparent way back in 1913 when American social reformer Julia Lathrop said, "Infant mortality is the most sensitive index we possess of social welfare." Though much has changed in the century since Lathrop began her pioneering advocacy for improvements to infant and maternal health, her insights into the connection between the health of a community's babies and the overall health of its residents remain remarkably valid today. That adds a level of urgency to the Lane County Fetal-Infant Mortality Initiative, which is faced with an "index of social welfare" that requires immediate attention.

No one is absolutely certain what's causing Lane County's fetal infant mortality rate to exceed national and state averages. Between 2000 and 2002, there were 9.4 deaths in Lane County for every 1,000 live births among babies between the 24th week of pregnancy and one year of age. The national average was 9.1 per 1,000, and the state average is 8 per 1,000.

Between 1999 and 2003, the latest figures available, the county estimated that proper care could have prevented almost 70 local infant deaths. County health officials are focusing on babies between one month and 1 year of age, because this group has the highest rate of preventable death.

As they continue to accumulate data to try to pinpoint causes for the high mortality rate, health officials have enough information to target breast-feeding, tobacco use and proper sleeping positions as strategies to pursue immediately.

Research suggests a significant number of Lane County women did not plan their pregnancies, which means families might not be prepared to do everything necessary during an infant's critical first year. Helpful information is available online at or by calling 682-3650.

Lane County's "index of social welfare" doesn't reflect the level of health our babies and mothers deserve. This month, we should rededicate ourselves to improving the outcomes for infants and creating healthier homes for everyone.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Focus this month is on reducing infant mortality
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 9, 2008
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