Infant Mortality Rate Still a Concern in Northwest Florida

By: Bryan Anderson
By: Bryan Anderson

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Marianna- Each year, more infants are dying in Northwest Florida because of health complications compared to the rest of the state. The "Healthy Start" program has been working for the last twenty years to bring that number down.

Mary Lott's son Aiden is a happy and healthy two-month-old.

"He's just a bundle of joy, I love him," said Lott.

After her doctor found Aiden could be at risk for Sudden Instant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, Lott enrolled in "Healthy Start" four months into her pregnancy.

"It's good to stay informed on the latest, so this program will do just that," said Lott.

Jackson County OBGYN and "Healthy Start" Community Partner Ricky Leff said not every story is like Lott's. He said there are a number of factors, especially in Northwest Florida, that work against an infant's chance of survival.

"Low income or poverty basically, smoking, obesity is also a contributor, so all of these things, and substance abuse as well," said Dr. Leff.

Last year, seven out of every 1,000 infants in Florida died from these complications, and in Northwest Florida, that number was closer to eight.

"There is plenty of poverty in rural areas. If I had to say one single thing that contributes to it, that probably would be it," said Leff.

Lott said this program was a life-changer and recommended it to any moms with infants or mothers-to-be.

"I give Healthy Start an A+ in my book," said Lott.

To qualify for this free program, moms have to meet a certain number of risk factors, but it is not income-based.

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