Infant Mortality

June 8th, 2017

While remaining high in Tarrant County, the infant mortality rate for babies born at JPS Health Network has dropped significantly, according to new statistics that suggest babies born at JPS are more likely to survive beyond the first year of life.

The infant mortality rate for babies born at JPS hit a 10-year low in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available, dropping slightly below the national infant mortality rate and well below the county’s.

Nurse leaders and physicians in Women’s Services at JPS have multiple initiatives underway to lower the infant mortality rate.

Nurse leaders and physicians in Women’s Services at JPS have multiple initiatives underway to lower the infant mortality rate.

In a single year, the infant mortality rate at JPS fell to 5.76 from 8.98 per 1,000 live births, according to Tarrant County Public Health. The national average fell to an all-time low of 5.82, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while Tarrant County’s rate ticked up to 7.22, meaning that one in every 139 babies born in Tarrant County in 2014 died before his or her first birthday. By comparison, one of every 174 babies born at JPS succumbed to infant mortality.

Infant mortality is considered an indicator of the population’s health and well-being. Tarrant County’s rate has consistently been among the highest in Texas. JPS Health Network’s governing Board of Managers designated infant mortality a high priority, and multiple initiatives are under way targeting factors believed to play a role.

“We are a developed country that should not be having the kind of numbers we have,” JPS President and CEO Robert Earley said during Thursday’s board meeting, where the health department’s statistics were reviewed.

Pat Alridge, executive director of Women’s Services at JPS, said she had requested additional detail from the health department, without which it was difficult to attribute the decrease to a specific initiative. “But it does validate that all we are doing to make people healthier is having an impact,” she said. “We need to keep doing what we’re doing.”

JPS changed the way that prenatal care is delivered four years ago, adopting the Centering Pregnancy model in which expectant mothers receive prenatal care in groups, extending their amount of time with providers and creating support groups. About 30 percent of women who give birth at JPS begin prenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy.

“We have a fleet of breastfeeding support,” Alridge said, providing new mothers with the support of certified lactation consultants. JPS was recently recognized for excellence in lactation care by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and International Lactation Consultant Association. Among JPS moms, 44 percent leave the hospital breastfeeding their newborns.

JPS also has a preconception program designed to improve the health of women who plan to become pregnant in the future, recognizing the potential impact of a woman’s historical health status on the health of future children.

About 20 percent of the babies born in Tarrant County are born at John Peter Smith Hospital, JPS Health Network’s flagship in Fort Worth.

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