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State officials try to fight infant mortality problem

Health care professionals and government officials from across the state are trying to address the large number of Kentucky babies that die in their first year of life.

The Courier-Journal reports that at the Governor’s Summit on Infant Mortality last week, officials said nearly 14 percent of Kentucky babies are born prematurely. And hospitalizations for babies born addicted to drugs rose by 2,400 percent between 2000 and 2011.

Both of those problems contribute to an infant mortality rate in Kentucky that is higher than that of Cuba, Croatia or Slovakia.

Ruth Shepherd is division director for maternal and child health in the state Department for Public Health. She said the factors contributing to infant mortality include poverty, lack of education and drug abuse.

Despite the daunting nature of the problem, state officials are working on solutions.

Dr. Henrietta Bada, of the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics, called the efforts to solve the problem of drug-addicted babies “a big mess.” She said medical professionals and policymakers need to re-examine the problem and provide more support for mothers, families and babies.

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