Infant mortality rates in Duval higher than state, national rates

More than 250 babies in Northeast Florida in 2017 were stillborn or died before their first birthday.

Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole explains why more babies are dying in our area, compared to the rest of the state.

Right now Duval County leads the northeast region in the number of infant deaths.

In 2017, there were 8 deaths for every 1,000 live births, according to Project IMPACT -- it’s the fetal and infant mortality review project for Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition has been carrying out this initiative, annually since 1995.

The infant mortality rate in Duval County is significantly greater than the state rate, which is 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, the national rate, which is 5.9 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and the regional rate — which is 7.3 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

The question is, why? Why are rates so much higher here in Northeast Florida?

"That's something that we've really been working on in terms of why the numbers are so high in this particular area,” said Kenneth Scarborough, the Chairman of the coalition.

In 2017, nearly half of all infant deaths in our region, were due to prematurity/LBW (low birth weight) or SIDS — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, while 34 percent were due to other perinatal conditions.

Scarborough, told Action News Jax the research continues to show African-American babies are being affected the most.

He said some social factors contribute to the problem.

"The health of the mother, the health of the father, the communities they live in, the systems they're impacted by,” said Scarborough.

Right now, the coalition reviews 28 infant deaths each year.

A new initiative with UF Health, Baptist Health/Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital and Florida Blue will allow the coalition to review all of the infant deaths in the area.

“[The partnership] is really going to help us be able to dig deep in terms of what's happening with our dying babies,” said Scarborough.

Scarborough said future research will not only be valuable in terms of reducing infant mortality rates, but in terms of improving the communities we live in — overall.

"The higher those rates are, it tells you how you're community is really struggling in terms of its health."

For more information about the services and resources available through the Northeast Florida Healthy Start, click here.

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