A new county-wide initiative led by the Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality – in partnership with Ready for School, Ready for Life – is being implemented to see that more babies are born healthy and enjoy a healthy beginning to their lives.

Guilford County announced the program on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and said in a statement that this is being done “to create a collective action approach for eliminating the systemic racism that causes babies born to African American mothers to experience pre-term births, low birth rates, and infant mortality at higher rates than babies born to white mothers.”

   Guilford County’s infant mortality rate is just over 8 deaths per 1,000 live births – with the two leading causes of infant mortality in the county being premature births and a low birth weight.

Both of those problems are more prevalent in African-American babies and that’s one reason that population is currently experiencing an infant mortality rate that’s more than five times higher than the infant mortality rate for white infants. For every 1,000 live white live births there are just under three deaths, while African-American deaths come in currently at over 15 per 1,000 live births.

According to county health officials, one of the key factors driving those numbers is a lack of access to high-quality prenatal care among some segments of the community.

A September 1 press release states that the coalition is seeking “to mobilize a broad range of community partners in pursuing a common goal for eliminating racial disparities in healthy childbirth,” and it adds, “It aims to build a collective, community-wide, action-oriented approach that builds off the success of the Coalition’s Adopt A-Mom Program, which coordinates prenatal care for low to medium-risk pregnant women who are not eligible for Medicaid, do not have private insurance to cover the cost of care, and cannot afford to pay out of pocket for care.”  

This initiative, which is considered a new approach to tackling infant mortality in the county, promises a “laser focused” and “data driven” strategy to create a coordinated effort to decrease the deaths of babies – particularly African-American babies.  

The Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality was formed in the early 1990s as an initiative of the Women’s Health Division of the Guilford County Department of Public Health. Its goal over the years has been to increase public awareness surrounding infant mortality and to work to see more healthy birth outcomes.

Recently, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved funding for a new position, a community health educator who’ll be responsible for helping to identify the root causes of infant mortality in the area as well as working to create a systematic approach to addressing the problem.