Texas A&M School of Public Health working to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate
Most individuals are not aware that the United States has one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the developed world. In fact, for every 1,000 American babies that are born, six die during their first year—nearly three times higher than the mortality rates in Japan, Portugal and Sweden. One of the major causes of this tragic statistic is the large number of preterm births.
In an effort to reduce preterm births and subsequently reduce the state’s infant mortality rate, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has awarded the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health funding to implement the Healthy Texas Babies Coalition evaluation.
Over the next two years, E. Lisako Jones McKyer, PhD, MPH, associate professor and director of research development for CCHD, will lead the effort to evaluate six perinatal coalitions in Texas that will implement evidenced-based interventions to reduce preterm birth and infant mortality and provide community awareness and outreach using DSHS’s “Someday Starts Now.” McKyer’s team, including project director Emily Martin, MPH, will evaluate the progress of the effectiveness of this evidence-based program and provide training and technical assistance to improve performance quality.
“Someday Starts Now” resources include a life-planning tool that helps women think through multiple aspects of becoming pregnant that might jeopardize having a healthy baby such as smoking and alcohol consumptions. The tool helps women assess their future plans and educational goals and assists in providing a roadmap of when might be the best time to become a mother in light of these goals and their life situations.
“Texas has the fourth highest birthrate in this nation, which means a lot of beautiful babies are being born in this wonderful state,” McKyer said. “It is imperative for the well-being and future of Texas and the U.S. that we ensure these infants start out with the decks stacked toward, rather than against them. Thus, promoting optimal health for women during childbearing years—through Healthy Texas Babies—is how Texas is succeeding in reducing infant mortality rates.”
Each of the six coalitions provide McKyer’s team monthly reports to include data on the number of trainings and events held to disseminate information, the number of women who complete life planning tools, results of training evaluations, birth outcomes, etc. The team in turn provides quarterly feedback to the coalitions assessing coalition development and functioning and provides technical assistance as needed, to improve program outcomes.
The competitively selected perinatal coalitions are using various techniques to disseminate maternal health information from electronic records prompts during doctor visits, to training providers, to direct client interventions including targeting students in both high school and college
Coalitions include Travis County Central Texas Perinatal Coalition, Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinic, Northeast Texas Public Health District, Parkland Health and Hospital System Community Action Network, Tarrant County Infant Health Network, and Waco-McLennan County Healthy Babies Coalition.