As a woman with strong Southern roots, I’m shocked and saddened by what I read this morning: more than NINE babies in 1,000 die before their first birthday in the state of Mississippi. That puts the Magnolia State’s infant mortality rate more on par with developing countries like Sri Lanka and Botswana than with the United States, according to a report from CNN.com.
Mississippi gave birth to my maternal grandparents and their legion of siblings and cousins. My grandpa is still kicking it today as he preps to celebrate his 90th birthday. His mom, my great-grand, almost made it to 100. “Hardy stock” -- that’s what we always said. But somewhere along the line that changed.
Sure, Mississippi has long been the butt of jokes, 50th in everything you don’t want to be last in. It’s a combination of these problems that experts think lead to the higher infant mortality rate:
- Obesity: Obese women have more complications during pregnancy, including pre-term birth.
- Poverty: coupled with low education, also can lead to premature birth. (Factor in that 20 percent of Mississippians are uninsured.)
- Teen pregnancy: Teenage moms are more likely to have babies too soon or have a low-birth-weight baby.
But this just isn’t funny. Babies are dying in Mississippi (and in other nearby Southern states, Alabama and Louisiana to be specific, that house people I hold near and dear).
The question of course is: What do we do? There’s the obvious advice for expectant mamas: Be healthy. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Exercise. Get prenatal checkups. But getting that message out takes time and money. Walk in a March of Dimes walkathon or write a check to First Candle. Let’s all do something to get more babies to their first birthday.