For about five years, reducing infant mortality in Guilford County has been one of the top goals of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, and recently the board got some additional money to further that effort in conjunction with a neighboring county.

The Division of Public Health of the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services is being awarded a two-year grant in the amount of $500,000 from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to support the county’s aptly named program, “Improving Community Outcomes for Maternal and Child Health.”

 The official mission of the state health officials focused on women’s and children’s health initiatives is to “assure, promote, and protect the health and development of families with emphasis on women, infants, children, and youth.”

The half million dollars of funding will go toward supporting the Guilford County Division of Public Health’s Every Baby Guilford Program as well as the Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition in Forsyth County.

Both of those programs work to reduce infant mortality rates in the two counties.

The programs focus largely on preventive health services that begin even before a woman becomes pregnant and extends throughout the early years of the child’s life.

The Guilford County Division of Public Health will provide the Forsyth County Department of Public Health with just over $200,000 of the state’s grant money and then two counties will work together to accomplish three key program goals:

• Improve birth outcomes

• Reduce infant mortality

• Improve health among children from birth until the age of five.

Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann was naturally very pleased with the grant and the help it will bring.

 The disparity between infants deaths of black babies and white babies has been a big concern in Guilford County for years and Vann said the program should help in that regard as well.  She said it may mean that one day Guilford County health officials will be able to report that black infants “no longer die at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity.”

In Guilford County, black infant deaths make up 64 percent of total infant deaths while in Forsyth County that number is 56 percent.

Both Guilford and Forsyth counties are in the top five counties in the state in a category they definitely don’t want to be in –highest infant mortality rates.

From 2019 to 2021, the infant mortality rate in Guilford County was 8.2 deaths per 1000 births and, in Forsyth County, it was 8.4 per 1,000 births.

 Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby that was born alive before that infant’s first birthday.