ENID, Okla. —
The effort to build a healthier community begins before birth. That’s the focus of a new initiative at Garfield County Health Department aimed at reducing the county’s disproportionately high rate of infant mortality.
Maggie Jackson, a health educator at Garfield County Health Department, said infant mortality in Garfield County has averaged about 12 deaths for every 1,000 live births over the last five years, significantly higher than Oklahoma’s five-year average of 8 per 1,000, and twice the national infant mortality rate of 6 per 1,000.
According to health department figures, the top five factors contributing to infant death in Oklahoma are:
• congenital malformations, or birth defects.
• disorders related to premature birth or low birth rates.
• Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), including sleep-related deaths.
• maternal complications during pregnancy.
• infant injury, including abusive head trauma and shaken baby syndrome.
A sleeper suspect
Jackson said reducing the risk for infant mortality in Garfield County requires education, prevention and changing the overall community environment to make Garfield County healthier for residents of all ages.
One of the simplest changes, Jackson said, is in following safety guidelines when putting babies down to sleep to avoid the risk of SIDS.
“There are avoidable factors contributing to babies dying of SIDS, such as sleep position, being suffocated by sleeping with adults or by having too many blankets or toys in the crib, or by falling off a sleeping surface,” Jackson said.
“Culturally, your mom will pass down to you ‘This is how I put you down to sleep,’” Jackson said. “It seems soothing and nurturing to comfort a baby by having them sleep in your bed, but that can be detrimental.”
She said babies should be placed on their backs in a crib located close to the parents’ sleeping area, without toys or blankets in the crib. Jackson said babies should not be swaddled in blankets to put down to sleep, but should instead wear a sufficiently warm “onesie.”
Jackson said parents should avoid overdressing babies for bed, as overheating increases the risk of SIDS.