San Bernardino County Sees Drop in Infant Mortality Rate in Two ‘Troubled’ Neighborhoods
San Bernardino County officials announced this week that the county's four-year "Healthy Start II" program aimed at reducing "alarmingly high rate of infant mortality" has succeeded in decreasing infant death rates by 35% in two neighborhoods with previously high rates, the Los Angeles Times reports. Using $8 million in federal funds, county officials began the program in 1996 to tackle what was then "one of the worst" rates of infant deaths in California -- 11.8 per 1,000 births from 1993 to 1995, compared with 6.4 statewide. In the two neighborhoods -- both urban communities "troubled by poverty, low education and poor prenatal care" and home to a combined 66,000 people -- the infant death rate exceeded one in 100. The campaign used a series of outreach programs to provide health education for pregnant women and encouraged women to seek prenatal care and avoid drug use. Using results compiled for 1998 and 1999, the "first full two years" of Healthy Start II, and comparing them to 1993-95 figures, the percentage of premature births declined 6.9% in the two neighborhoods, and the percentage of mothers receiving prenatal care in the first trimester increased 18.7%. The Times reports that while "the county as a whole" did not see any change in the infant death rate, Vanessa Long, program manager of San Bernardino County's Maternal Health Section, said the improvements made in the two neighborhoods were so "significant" that the county is no longer eligible for federal funding for the program and will "have to search elsewhere" for support to continue the program (Gold, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.