Infant mortality rate in Guilford County higher than national average

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Babies in Guilford County are dying at an alarming rate. The death rate is topping the national average.

"I wish we could figure out what to do to save all babies," said Charmaine Purdum, the coordinator for Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality.

Many of babies born in Guilford County are not making it past their first birthday.

"When you talk about infant mortality, most people don't realize babies still die in this day in age," said Tanya Bailey, certified nurse midwife with the Magnolia Birth Center.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 847 babies died in North Carolina in 2017. Sixty-one of those deaths occurred in Guilford County.

But it's the rate at which these infants are dying that is most concerning.

Guilford County is seeing an infant mortality rate of 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. The state's rate is 7.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Nationwide, the infant mortality rate is 5.8 out of 1,000 live births.

"Low birth weight is the leading cause of infant mortality in Guilford County. These are babies born less than 5.5 pounds, babies who were born too soon and too fragile," Purdum said. "[And] we've had a rash, since August, of seven deaths specifically due to unsafe sleep environments."

Purdum and Bailey work together to try and understand why so many babies are dying.

"We continue to see pregnant women who smoke and who drink alcohol," Purdum said. "Drugs are on a rise here."

They hope to push to put an end to this troubling trend.

"We don't spend a lot of time with women postpartum and making sure they adjust well," Bailey said.

"We have food deserts here, we have high poverty, we have 50 percent of children living in poverty," Purdum said. "All of that impacts the health of our mothers and babies."

It also impacts the wellness of the community.

"One lost baby is too many. But when we have a rate like we do, and we're seeing that number constantly rise, we have to do something," Bailey said.

FOX8 is told there are numerous resources available in Guilford County for expectant mothers to get the help they need.

One of those programs is Adopt-A-Mom, through the Guilford County Health Department, which offers assistance to women who do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

More information and resources can be found on the Guilford County Health Department website.

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