New Video Aims to Reduce Infant Mortality in the Native American Community

Feb 11, 2013, 9:57 AM

Native Generations video on reducing infant mortality

American Indians living in urban areas have a higher infant death rate (8.1 per 1,000 live births) compared to all races in urban areas (6 per 1,000 births), according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. And American-Indian babies are more likely than babies of other races to die of genetic problems, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and unintentional injuries. In order to raise awareness as well as share health and prevention messages, the Urban Indian Health Institute has launched Native Generations, a campaign to help reduce infant mortality in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Native Generations is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

Among the reasons for the higher rate of deaths and medical problems among the babies is that their mothers-to-be have higher rates of risk factors including being unmarried, receiving little or no prenatal care, drinking alcohol or smoking while pregnant and being a teen age mother.

A critical concept behind the new campaign is to connect young parents with Urban Indian Health Organizations, now in 20 states, which offer parent education, support and well as culturally relevant techniques and information. For example, parents are taught how to use cradleboards, a traditional Native American carrier for babies, whose design can help prevent SIDS by keeping babies off their stomachs while they’re sleeping.

To teach new parents and their families about the value and importance of combining health information and tribal customs to help raise healthy babies, UIHI has developed a new video that shares the stories of several families who have learned to care for their babies with help from the Urban Indian Health Organizations. Shira Rutman, project coordinator at UIHI, says personal stories from families on their concerns and the benefits of getting parenting information and home nurse visits was invaluable, and makes the video actionable and reliable. Rutman says UIHI plans to distribute the video to health providers and community organizations that serve American Indian and Alaska Native families.

>>Bonus Link: The March of Dimes is celebrating its seventieth anniversary during 2013. Originally founded as an organization to help prevent polio, the March of Dimes has a particular focus currently on increasing the number of babies born at full term. Currently half a million U.S. babies are born prematurely each year. See a state by state prematurity report card for 2012.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.