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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: December 12, 2013


As 2013 comes to a close, the Division of Public Health (DPH) and its partners are celebrating the progress achieved this year in Delaware to combat infant mortality and reduce premature births. Delaware's infant mortality rate has dropped almost 14 percent since 2000. Mortality rates for late preterm infants (between 34 and 36 weeks) are four times higher than rates for full-term infants. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities. This serious health problem costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report.

In the latest development to reduce infant mortality and premature births, the Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium (DHMIC), organized and staffed by DPH, has achieved 100 percent adherence for its 39-week initiative to improve birth outcomes. The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of hospital births that occur at or after 39-weeks. According to Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Division of Public Health, studies have shown that:

"We are deeply gratified by the fact that no hospital in Delaware is delivering babies before 39 weeks, unless medically indicated," said Dr. David Paul, Chair of the DHMIC.

Wayne Smith, CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association, noted, "This achievement is worth celebrating because it will improve birth outcomes in our state." Dr. Garret Colmorgen, Medical Director of the DHMIC's Perinatal Cooperative-which coordinates perinatal standards among Delaware hospitals and led this statewide effort-agreed, saying, "It is remarkable that we have achieved this milestone based on standards set by the hospitals themselves to be accountable."

Delaware recently launched the Long Live Dreams Safe Sleep campaign for infants to promote safe sleep practices and reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths. Long Live Dreams also strives to reduce the pronounced disparity between Delaware's white and black SIDS rates. In 2010, SIDS accounted for 12.5 percent of black infant deaths and 8.8 percent of white infant deaths.

Long Live Dreams contains four core safe sleep practices:

Finally, Delaware has been recognized with the Virginia Apgar Award. The award is given to recognize states that accepted and met a challenge from the March of Dimes and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to lower their preterm birth rates 8 percent between 2009 and 2014. "This progress shows that when infant health becomes a leadership priority, significant progress is possible, and families and babies benefit," said Dr. Paul E. Jarris, Executive Director of ASTHO.

"Reducing infant mortality in Delaware has long been a priority of the Markell administration," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Director. "We continue to see progress on this front, and DPH is grateful to our many partners for helping to protect infants and their health in 2013."

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.