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Local health officials working to lower state infant mortality rate

In Alabama, most 600 newborn babies died in 2012.
Almost 20% of infant deaths were sleep related.
Almost 20% of infant deaths were sleep related.

Almost 600 newborn babies died in 2012 and health officials in Houston County are working to lower that number. Doctors we spoke with today named many ways in which they're trying to educate patients and keep them from becoming a statistic.

"I can't imagine anything worse that anyone would have to go through," said Dr. Guy Middleton of Dothan OBGYN Inc.

In 2012, for every thousand babies born in Alabama almost nine died... That's compared to a national average of six per thousand, placing Alabama in the top three states for infant mortality. In an effort to break the disturbing trend a statewide campaign was launched this month.

"It's that promise of that life and that promise that they're going to share and when it's taken away from them at any age of gestation or anytime after delivery it's heart wrenching and it really makes you want to do everything you can to reduce that risk and have the least amount of people have to experience that pain," said Middleton.

Research shows that there are five main issues that contribute to the state's high infant mortality rate.

“High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, substance abuse, stress, obesity and unintended pregnancies all create risks. It’s also important for babies to sleep on their backs; poor sleeping for babies is a risk factor for infant mortality,” said Middleton.

In fact, almost 20% of infant deaths were sleep related. That led health officials at Southeast Alabama medical center to adopt the national 'Back to Sleep' campaign to teach parents the dangers of co-sleeping and to remind parents to lay babies on their backs.Now a new statewide campaign that's in the process of being implemented will also help low income families afford a crib. The State Department of Public Health is giving $2.5 million dollars to the program this year and hopes the governor and legislature will provide $4 million for next year.

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