County infant mortality rate dropping

• Health Support Services Director says statistics are ‘encouraging’ for county’s programs

The Winnebago County Health Department infant mortality rate continued its downward trend in 2002.

“This is encouraging news that supports the benefits of the programs offered throughout our community,” said Karen Ayala, Health Support Services Director.

The Winnebago County infant mortality rate for 2002 was 9.6 per 1,000 live births, according to data compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Winnebago County rates for 2001 were the lowest ever at 5.8 per 1,000 live births.

“This is a demonstration of how much the rates can vary from year to year. However if you merge years into larger time blocks, or use a line of best fit through annual rates over time, the overall community trend is clearly downward,” added Ayala.

These improvements in the health of infants result from the broad and integrated system of support for pregnant women consisting of the Winnebago County Health Department, March of Dimes, the three local health systems, and Crusader Clinic UICOM.

Increasing access of mothers and infants to prenatal support services remains a focus of the health department programs such as Women Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC), Family Case Management (FCM), and Targeted Intensive Prenatal case management.

The national goal for 2010 for the infant mortality rate is to not have more than 4.5 deaths per 1,000 births, according to Mike Bacon.

“This year’s rate of 9.6 and the average rate for the past five years of 8.4 puts the community on the right path to achieve, or improve upon, this important national health objective,” added Mike Bacon.

Tempering the good news, however, is the fact that the infant mortality rate in Winnebago County as well as the entire state of Illinois, for African-Americans is far higher than that for Caucasians. For example, the average infant mortality rate from 1995-1999 for Winnebago County white infants was 6.4 whereas the rate for African-American infants stood at 18.9. Therefore, the real work must focus particularly on African-American births to have more dramatic influence on healthy birth outcomes

The infant mortality rate is calculated on an annual basis dividing the number of infants who die before 1 year of age by the total number of babies born in the same year, then multiplying that by 1,000. For more information on all maternal child services, contact the Winnebago County Health Department at 720-4300.

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