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Oklahoma infant mortality rate increases

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Mary Beth Cox, project coordinator for the Central Oklahoma Fetal and Infant Mortality Review, said not every death can be prevented.

Oklahoma infant mortality rate increases

it was more than two years ago, but Sara Watkins still remembers the exact time her daughter’s day care provider called to say the child had become discolored and cold to the touch.

“It happened at 1:03 - in a matter of 18 minutes she had turned blue,” the Edmond woman said Thursday, recalling how 2-month-old Josie went from taking a nap to having difficulty breathing.

Josie was pronounced dead at a hospital - the victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, one of the leading causes of infant deaths in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has a new initiative and Web site to address infant deaths in the state, which officials say has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country. The “Preparing for a Lifetime: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative was launched Tuesday during the Southwest Region Health Start Conference in Oklahoma City.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the National Center for Health Statistics, Oklahoma ranked 41st in the U.S. for infant deaths in 2006. Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate that year was 8.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births during the same period nationally.

Among blacks in Oklahoma, the infant mortality rate of 15.8 per 1,000 in 2006 was more than double that of 6.7 per 1,000 for whites. Among Native Americans, the rate of 10.6 deaths per 1,000 also was higher than for whites, according to the statistics.

Jan Figart, associate director of the Community Services Council in Tulsa, said the infant mortality rate in Oklahoma has increased after reaching a plateau several years ago. Figart noted the risk factors that can lead to health problems for infants or death include a lack of health insurance, living in poverty, the mother being obese before pregnancy and smoking during pregnancy.

Watkins said none of these factors applied to her.

“I don’t smoke and I had a normal, full-term pregnancy,” she said.

“For a lot of moms, it’s hugely devastating for their families, and they themselves - the moms - struggle with what happened and the loss.”

Watkins said her husband, Toby, her friends and members of her church helped her cope with her daughter’s February 2007 death.

“We have another baby now, 18 months and just full of energy and life, but she’s not a replacement,” Watkins said.

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Oklahoma infant mortality rate increases
Oklahoma infant mortality rate increases

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