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Infant Mortality Awareness

Prevention

What is the Alaska Division of Public Health doing to prevent infant deaths?

  • The Section of Women’s, Children’s and Family Health (WCFH) coordinated the Alaska Infant Safe Sleep Task Force since 2009.  The objectives of this task force are to develop and promote:
    • A clear relevant message about risk and protective factors
    • Professional and public education materials
    • Integration of the message across health care and child care systems in Alaska
  • Starting in summer 2014, the Section of WCFH has coordinated the Alaska team that is participating in the Maternal Child Health Bureau-sponsored Collaborative for Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality.  Coordinated by the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICH) and the Association of Maternal Child Health Programs (AMCHP), this multiyear national initiative engages federal, state, and local leaders, public and private agencies, professionals and communities to employ quality improvement, innovation and collaborative learning to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes. Phase 1 of the project targets five areas: 1) promoting safe sleep practices for infants; 2) eliminating early elective deliveries; 3) encouraging smoking cessation in parents; 4) helping hospitals adhere to standards of perinatal practice; 5) improving access to care to mothers before and between pregnancies.
  • Other programs within the Section of WCFH support newborn metabolic screening, increasing birth defects and folic acid awareness, breastfeeding education, promoting on-time immunizations and well child visits, research into specific potential contributors to infant mortality such as certain metabolic conditions, and integrating preconception health messages into existing public health programs.
  • The Alaska Maternal Infant Mortality and Child Death Review (MIMR-CDR) Committee is a is a group of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who meet regularly to review the circumstances of every infant and child death in the state to determine whether it could have been prevented and what needs to be done to prevent future similar deaths.
  • The Alaska Surveillance of Child Abuse and Neglect (Alaska SCAN) program works with the Children’s Justice Act Task Force and the Office of Children’s Services to identify risk factors and markers for child abuse and to develop and evaluate programs to prevent child maltreatment.
  • The Alaska Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) is a population-based survey of mothers of newborns that asks questions about experiences surrounding the pregnancy period.  These data provide information useful to infant mortality reduction efforts in the state.
  • The Office of the State Medical Examiner (SME) investigates and autopsies many unexpected or traumatic deaths, including all unexpected out of hospital infant deaths.  In recent years, the SME pathologists and investigators have promoted the use of the standardized death scene investigation form for all infant deaths.  The SME also coordinates the Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) which is mandated by state law.  This team brings together investigators, legal counsel, staff from the Office of Children’s Services, and medical experts to review child deaths soon after they occur and assist the SME with classifying the manner of death and whether any other children in the home may need help or protection. 
  • Injury prevention programs run by the Alaska Division of Public Health through the Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion include the child passenger safety program, Kids Don’t Float, and the Alaska Reflector Program.
  • The Alaska Immunization Program in the Section of Epidemiology provides vaccines, an immunization information system to maintain consolidated immunization records for Alaskans of all ages, and immunization education and training to health care providers, schools, and the general public.  The program also coordinates surveillance and control efforts for vaccine preventable diseases and supports efforts to increase vaccinations for all Alaskans.