Haywood County has a lower infant mortality rate than the state as a whole, according to a report given at last week’s county commission meeting.
The Haywood County Health Department updated the commissioners on the county’s child and infant deaths as well as the prevention work of its Child Fatality Prevention Team.
The county infant mortality rate is 3.4 percent, compared to the state’s rating of 7.9. The rate is calculated using the number of infant deaths and births in a given area.
Lisa Davis, head of the county’s fatality prevention team, said she believes collaborations between agencies with a similar goal — healthy births — are integral to decreasing the number of deaths.
“That collaboration is paramount to continuity of services to families,” she said.
Early prenatal care, the availability of Medicare to pregnant women, and the quality pediatric care also increase the likelihood that an infant will be healthy when it’s born.
Also possibly contributing to Haywood’s lower infant mortality, however, is that women with high risk pregnancies or complications detected in utero give birth at Mission Hospital in Asheville, which is equipped with the region’s only neo-natal intensive care unit.
To help avert such tragedies as infant and child death, the state mandated in 1995 that each county have a Child Fatality Prevention Team, which investigates the death of any child in the county and educates people on child safety. The team receives only $500 a year — enough to cover lunch during meetings for its 18 members.
“We see it as a community responsibility to prevent child fatalities,” said Lisa Davis, who has headed Haywood County’s prevention team for six years.
The team not only teaches parents to lay infants on their backs to sleep but also passes out flyers to students leaving Tuscola High School about avoiding cell phone use while driving.
New drivers are “inexperienced” and more likely to get into an accident, Davis said.
Research has shown that going over the speed limit and talking or texting on a cell phone while driving increases that likely of having an accident.
The information collected and recommendations made by these teams have resulted in a number of state safety laws including: penalties for landlords who don’t install smoke detectors in their rentals; the Child Bicycle Safety Act; and a statute making it illegal for anyone under 18 to drive while using their cell phone.
Information collected by individual counties gives the state health department a better understanding why children are dying and how deaths might be prevented.
A child is considered anyone under the age of 18.
The team reviews whatever records are available regarding a child’s death. All the information is confidential, and the team does not contact the deceased’s parents. Rather, they see if a government agency or health care provider could have done something more to stop the death.
“We try to look at the records to determine if there were any services or deficiency in services that might have prevented that child’s death,” Davis said.
Last year, the Child Fatality Prevention Team met three times to review the deaths of five children. Two adolescents died after sustaining injuries in car accidents; one infant died from a birth defect; and one child and one infant died due to an illness.
Davis said she is not aware of any child fatalities in Haywood County this year.
“We are so blessed,” she added.
Infant Mortality Rate by County in 2009
• Haywood County: 3.4 percent
• Jackson County: 8.9 percent
• Macon County: 8.6 percent
• Swain County: N/A
* Babies are not delivered at the Swain County Hospital.
Child Deaths by County in 2009
• Haywood County: 3
• Jackson County: 4
• Macon County: 0
• Swain County: 0