December 9, 2006
Since last year the number of infant deaths in Virginia increased from 6 to 7.3 per one thousand births. Infant mortality involves not only deaths of newborn babies, but also children up to one year of age.
That means factors like pre-natal care, sudden infant death syndrome, accidents and abuse are all accounted for in the study, but one local doctor says pre-mature births and infant mortality have the strongest connection.
"We have a very high rate of pre-maturity and that's not going down, that's going up and we don't know exactly why,” said Dr. Robert Boyle, UVa Professor of Pediatrics.
Dr. Boyle said poverty, access to care, and education are all factors that have a direct affect on death rates. Virginia's more urban areas such as Hampton Roads and Richmond see a higher percentage of infant deaths raising the state average.
“Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Greene County, and this area we actually do pretty well. Our infant mortality is actually lower than the state average, but that's balanced by much higher rates in other parts of the state,” Boyle said.
Some in Charlottesville aren't sitting on the sidelines. UVa Medical Center is participating in FIRM, Fetal and Infant Mortality Review, a program that closely studies Virginia’s problem.
“UVa has always been a leader in the area in terms of education of both practitioners, physicians, nurses and consumers in terms of trying to improve our outcomes,” said Boyle.
The list ranks states in order of healthiest to unhealthiest putting Virginia at twenty first, down from twenty last year. Number one went to Minnesota while Louisiana came in last.