Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. One program aims to improve those numbers.

Published: Feb. 19, 2023 at 9:17 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi State Department of Health is working to combat the maternal and Infant mortality rates here in the state with a free statewide program.

“I just want everyone to know that being pregnant, being a mom, and having a healthy baby, that is a human right,” Dr. Justin Turner said.

Dr. Turner is the Chief Medical Officer at the Mississippi State Department of Health. He says the state’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the nation, and that is a troubling trend.

“Maternal health is a big deal,” said Dr. Turner. “Basically, here in Mississippi, our pregnancy-related maternal mortality ratio is 33.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. So that number is almost twice the national average of like 17. Here in Mississippi, we have the highest infant mortality rate. We have the highest preterm birth rate, and we also have the highest low birth weight.

Dr. Turner also points out there are drastic differences in racial disparities in maternal health in the state.

Many of these women are suffering due to their zip code as well as economic factors and insurance gaps.

“We see that our black non-Hispanic women are dying four times more compared to our white non-Hispanic women,” said Dr. Turner. “When you look into it, 87.5% of those pregnancy-related deaths were determined to be preventable. So, that is quite significant because if we have over 87% of these deaths that are preventable, then what are things we need to be doing differently to help these moms survive a pregnancy?”

That’s where Turner says the Mississippi State Department comes in.

He says there are multiple resources to help moms and infants survive and live healthy lives.

“At the Mississippi State Department of Health website, we have tons of information where moms can go on and look and see how they can be more educated about the pregnancy process because a lot of women get pregnant for the first time really have no clue what to expect,” Dr. Turner said.

The state department of health also has a program called Health Moms Healthy Babies.

Jillian Harper Peave is the director.

Right now, the statewide program has more than 600 people which includes moms and babies.

“It’s a maternal and infant support program, so we work with the families in the community to make sure all Mississippi moms and babies have safe birthing experiences and are healthy,” Peave said. “We work with medical providers in communities to help identify moms and babies who have identified health risks, so these are pregnant women, up to two months postpartum, and infants up to one year in age.”

“Those moms have access to a nurse, have access to a case manager, have access to a nutritionist, and even being able to do the behavior health screening,” Dr. Turner said. “That’s another significant factor in a lot of these women who deal with depression, anxiety, several different things just trying to get adjusted to the process of being pregnant.”

The program is free. They say all it costs is your participation

“For us to do better in regard to reducing maternal and infant mortality is to educate ourselves,” Peave said. “We are just thankful we are able to support and guide our families.”

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