December 13, 1996
INFANT DEATH RATE
SECOND LOWEST IN STATE HISTORYSPRINGFIELD, IL -- Illinois' infant mortality rate rose slightly last year, but still was the second lowest in the state's history, Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, announced today.
In 1995, 1,724 infants died before their first birthday, according to statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which represents a rate of 9.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. The only lower death total and rate recorded by the state was in 1994 when there were 1,711 infant deaths and a rate of 9.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Prior to 1994, previous record low numbers were reported in 1993 (1,838, 9.6), 1992 (1,911, 10.0) and 1991 (2,068, 10.7).
"We must continue to work together -- government agencies with one another, the public sector with the private sector and the medical community with the social services community -- to improve each child's chances of being born healthy," Dr. Lumpkin said. "In addition, women need to be educated about how crucial appropriate prenatal care is and be encouraged to choose healthier behaviors for them and their unborn children."
Under terms of the Department's family case management approach, a case manager is assigned to Medicaid and medically indigent families with pregnant women and children up to 1 year of age to assure they receive regular medical care and related services. The case manager, among other services, helps the family select a doctor, keep appointments and arrange for transportation.
A Department study found that pregnant women who did not receive case management were one-third more likely to give birth to very low birth weight infants (less than 1,500 grams) than women who did receive family case management.
Dr. Lumpkin said two-thirds of the state's infant deaths can be attributed to risks associated with low birth weight.
"Mothers-to-be need to be aware of and have access to early and comprehensive prenatal care and proper nutrition," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Infants born too soon or too small are 40 times more likely to die in the first month of life, and low birth weight children who survive suffer chronic physical and learning disabilities two to three times more often than normal weight infants."
Dr. Lumpkin said family case management efforts, along with medical advances and dramatic reductions in the number of children who die due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), have contributed to a 17 percent decline in the number of infant deaths over the past five years. In 1991, there were 2,068 infant deaths, 344 more than recorded in 1995.
There were 180 SIDS deaths confirmed in 1995, down 28 percent from the 250 SIDS deaths in 1994 and a 41 percent reduction since 1991 when there were 307 SIDS deaths. The decline in SIDS deaths corresponds to a statewide campaign to educate expectant mothers about early prenatal care; abstaining from the use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs; and the benefits of breastfeeding. Parents also are instructed to put their baby on his or her back or side, rather than stomach, to sleep; to use only a firm mattress; and to not allow their baby to sleep on a soft pillow or water bed.
The use of the drug surfactant has led to a reduction in infant deaths related to respiratory illness that often is the cause of death for premature infants. Surfactant is a natural substance the body produces at about 28 weeks of gestation that helps the lungs stay inflated and prevents damage from breathing. Artificial surfactant is given to premature infants who have not yet produced sufficient quantities of their own surfactant.
Infant deaths due to respiratory conditions have dropped by more than half since 1991 (414 in 1991; 196 in 1995).
A continuing challenge, Dr. Lumpkin said, is to narrow the gap between mortality rates for white and black babies. In 1995, the gap did narrow slightly, not due to a reduction in black mortality rates, but because of a larger increase in white rates.
Both mortality rates for white and black babies increased slightly from the all-time low numbers recorded in 1994. The infant mortality rate for African Americans was 18.2 in 1995 compared with a rate of 7.2 for white babies. The racial disparity means that black babies are about 2 1/2 times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthday. The African-American infant mortality rate was 17.9 in 1994 and the white rate was 6.7.
Geographically, the infant mortality rate in Chicago increased from 12.5 infant deaths in 1994 to 12.6 in 1995. Downstate, the infant mortality rate increased from 7.6 in 1994 to 7.9 in 1995.
The total number of births in 1995 was 185,801, down from the 189,182 recorded in 1994.
Click here to view the Infant Mortality Rates by County for 1994 and 1995.
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