House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian Moran this week proposed an Infant Mortality Prevention Act before the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee of the House of Delegates.
The Act is designed to reduce Virginias higher-than-average infant mortality rate by expanding access to pre-natal care, improving coordination of home visitation programs and strengthening faith-based outreach to ensure a safe first year of life. The Act also targets state focus on critically needed high-risk areas and launches a new public information campaign to reduce the instance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Delegate Dwight C. Jones (D-Richmond), Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, serves as chief co-patron of the initiative and the proposal is supported by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Voices for Virginias Children, and March of Dimes. The legislation was approved by the HWI Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.
Virginia stands out as a model state in many ways but we should truly be ashamed of our record on reducing infant mortality. As the father of two young children, I know there is nothing more important than providing families with a safe, secure, and healthy environment, said Delegate Moran. Our nation is first in millionaires and first in billionaires, yet we have fallen to 37th in the world in our infant mortality rate. Our parents deserve our support and these children deserve nothing less than a chance at life.
Virginias infant mortality rate is 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, the 17th highest and well above the national average. The leading causes of IM are prematurity/low weight birth, Sudden Infant Death, Birth Defects and other of pregnancy.
The Infant Mortality Prevent Act expands pre-natal care to mothers earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level in order to provide the care needed for a safe and healthy first year of life. Studies have shown that the IMR for women who received late or no pre-natal care was 37% higher than the rate for women who received care in the first trimester.
The act also:
- Prohibits the state from charging copayments for needed pre-natal services for state employees
- Designates a high-level coordinator for the states home visitation programs that are designed to limit infant mortality. Home visitation is one of the surest ways to ensure Moms have the information for a healthy birth.
- Directs the Office of Faith Based Services to coordinate faith-based organizations to reduce infant mort.
- Requires a new public education campaign to reduce the cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
This measure is fiscally responsible as the costs to the taxpayer of a baby carried to term is approximately $3200 while a premature baby who remains in Neonatal Intensive Care for an average of eleven days, costs from $31,000 to $48,000.
This is a responsible first step to curb Virginias higher-than-average infant mortality rate and focus our resources on those communities most affected, said Moran. This initiative is fiscally responsible and morally required and will reduce long-term healthcare costs for the Commonwealth.
The higher-than-average infant mortality rates are particularly acute in our Eastern Region with a rate of 11.4 deaths per 1,000 live Births. White Virginians have an infant death rate of approximately 5.9 per thousand while African American Virginians have a rate of 14.3 per thousand nearly three times greater.
Virginians deserve quick and decisive action on this measure to reduce our all-too-high infant mortality rate, said Delegate Dwight Jones, Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. Our minority communities suffer a three times higher rate of infant death than other communities so we must focus our resources where it is needed the most.
Top 10: 5 Year Average Infant Mortality Rates per 1000 Live Births (2001-2005)
Richmond City 14.9
Roanoke City 13.6
Newport News 11.6
After some years of improvement, Virginias infant mortality rate remains stagnant, which is a great concern to all health care professionals and child advocates. We need to re-double our efforts to identify and reduce risk factors. This bill is definitely a step in the right direction, said John Morgan of Voices for Virginias Children.
The faith community is eager to work with the Commonwealth and reduce infant mortality, said Doug Smith of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. We have been watching a model of collaboration from Tarrant County, Texas that demonstrates how a healthy partnership that educates and empowers families through healthy lifestyles and exercise can reduce infant mortality. Our buildings and our volunteers share the same goal as the state; keeping Virginia healthy.