Several years ago, Guilford County health officials and other county leaders realized that the county had a major problem when it came to infant mortality and they began taking steps to remedy the situation.

One of the programs designed and implemented to help in that regard – “Every Baby Guilford” – has now gained national recognition, and the county commissioners are going to take note of that achievement at the Board’s Thursday, Aug. 17 meeting when they also pass a resolution showing support for Infant Mortality Awareness Month in the county.

On Wednesday, Aug. 16, the county put out a press release noting the achievement of the county’s program that’s meant to assure that all pregnant women and their newborns get the help they need before, during and after  birth.

The initiative was launched in 2021 but has its roots in a three-decade old alliance of public health staff, health care professionals, faith-based organizations and community partners – collectively known formerly as the Coalition on Infant Mortality.

The declaration of Infant Mortality Awareness Month is meant to focus the public’s attention on the problem so that they’ll be cognizant of it and be more likely to take steps to prevent harm to newborns.

“In an effort to help more infants reach their first birthday,” the press release states, “the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is drawing attention to the County’s work to reduce infant mortality and eliminate racial disparities in infant and maternal health. On August 17, 2023, the Board will proclaim September 2023 ‘Infant Mortality Awareness Month’ in Guilford County and encourage birthing parents to take steps to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of their families by making healthy personal lifestyle choices, seeking regular preventative health care, and participating in the various initiatives Every Baby Guilford leads.”

Though the county has focused a lot of time, money and other resources on the issue in the last three years, Guilford County continues to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state, and also continues to have a big disparity of infant survival rates between minority and non-minority families.

In 2021, the last year for which there are final audited statistics, 44 infants died in Guilford County before their first birthday. That’s a rate of 7.6 deaths per 1,000 births. For every white infant that died in the county, three black babies died.  In 2021, Black babies made up 38 percent of births in the county – yet they represented 64 percent of infant deaths.

The Every Baby Guilford program was honored last month in the National Association of Counties 2023 Best in Category Achievement Awards in the Health category.

The program is led by the Guilford County Division of Public Health.

In addition to proclaiming September Infant Mortality Awareness Month this week, the Board of Commissioners will recognize Jean Workman, the program manager for Every Baby Guilford, as well as other county health staff, for their work.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has made this one of his priority issues in recent years and, in work sessions and meetings, he’s been a very vocal advocate in the fight against infant mortality.

This week in a public statement Alston said that “Every baby and family should have equitable opportunities and access to achieve the healthiest start in life, and through programs like Every Baby Guilford, we are working together as One Guilford to improve infant and parental health so that all babies have a chance to thrive,”

He added that he and the rest of the board are very proud of the county’s “innovative work” in this program and the several other Guilford County programs that received national recognition.