AL has highest infant mortality rate, data shows

AL has highest infant mortality rate, data shows

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - From the moment Darwina Johnson found out she was pregnant, she had hopes and dreams for her baby.

"For months of planning of like, 'Hey, I'm excited, I'm having a baby," she said.

Instead, her joy turned to heartbreak. Johnson lost her baby when she was five months pregnant.

"I'm not going to get that bundle of joy," she said. "I regret I never [saw] her eyes, because she never opened her eyes for me."

Far too many woman in Alabama can relate to Johnson's loss. Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, sitting at 9.1 deaths per 1,000 according to Department of Public Health 2016 data. During that year 537 infants died.

There are many reasons it could happen. Some predictable and some not, but Dr. Grace Thomas, the director for Bureau of Family Health Services, said it is important to get prenatal care.

"Once they determine that they are pregnant or even before then when they are planning to have a baby, they need to take the steps and measures to get into care," Dr. Thomas said.

She said the top three reasons for infant mortality in the state include congenital anomalies, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome.

In 2016, former Gov. Robert Bentley created the Children's Cabinet. Gov. Kay Ivey asked the cabinet in December to address the issue of infant mortality in Alabama. In June it recommended to start a pilot program, allowing nurses to visit future mothers at their homes.

"We want to take care of the woman, not only during pregnancy, but before, during and after pregnancy," Dr. Thomas said.

It would start or expand evidence-based home visitation programs to three counties: Macon, Montgomery, and Russell counties.

The goal of the pilot is to reduce infant-mortality rates in these counties by 20 percent.

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