The Mississippi Department of Health just announced the infant mortality rate dropped by 15 percent last year-an all time low for the state. The rate counts the number of infant deaths before age one. In 2014, the department found that out of nearly 39-thousand babies born, 319 didn't survive. Dr. Mary Currier, the State Health Officer, says the state still has one of the highest rates in the country and points to premature births as a major concern.
"Babies who are born too soon, born younger than 37 weeks. And a lot of those babies are born very, very early, so you know 28, 27, 26 weeks," said Currier.
Dr. Charlene Collier is an OB-GYN at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and consultant for the health department. She explains what premature babies face.
"Their lungs are not intended to be out at that time. They're not well developed. They're at higher risk of infection. Their immune systems are not developed," said Collier.
Collier recommends the hormone Progesterone to decrease the risk of premature births. She also says a women's overall health is important prior to pregnancy. They're working with organizations to educate women about not using tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, managing conditions like diabetes and avoiding substance abuse. She adds unsafe sleeping conditions can kill babies.
"Accidents that happen in the bed related to the baby not getting enough air or not being put in a safe environment, which is being on their back, in a crib, alone and away from tobacco or smoke," said Collier.
Collier says the infant mortality rate is declining among Black women in Mississippi, but is nearly twice as high as Whites. She believes poverty and lack of education play a role. Collier says they're looking for ways to bridge that gap.