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Solutions needed to slow rising infant death rates

Infant mortality continues to be a national crisis in the United States.

Currently, the average national mortality rate is 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births (National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, 2020).

Sadly, this statistic increases significantly in underserved populations, such as our community, due to the vast health inequities these individuals face daily.

In Blair County alone, the infant death rate rose to 7.1 in 2017, and, unfortunately, is predicted to continue to grow unless progressive political changes take place (Pennsylvania Department of Health).

The definition of infant mortality is the death of a child under one year of age.

Some of the significant causes of infant mortality directly relate to conditions where infants are born prematurely or preterm due to a lack of adequate prenatal care, limited socioeconomic factors or maternal health complications.

These pregnancy-related conditions are often preventable through the implementation of better health care strategies aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of our pregnant population.

Our area is currently facing a drastic shortage of health care providers, predominantly in the field of obstetrics and family healthcare.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is estimated that there will be up to 8,000 fewer OB-GYNs in this year alone, and this figure is predicted to rise unprecedently (Association of American Medical Colleges, 2018).

This deficiency of health clinicians, combined with the many other unfortunate health disparities our communities are facing ­– such as limited safe housing, poor nutrition and unreliable transportation — are creating an inevitable adverse effect on the health outcomes of our community, especially our infant population.

The time for action is now.

As a registered nurse with over 20 years of experience, I feel compelled to address this vital issue to create awareness of the problems our community is facing and to firmly advocate for changes in our current health care reform to resolve this dilemma.

As health care professionals, we must serve our community as effectively and efficiently as we can.

To promote better quality care, I am proposing the implementation of team-based care combined with allowing full-practice authority of nurse practitioners to produce a more patient-centered and efficient model of healthcare (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2016).

The nursing profession is recognized as the most honest and well-respected health professions of all.

Fully integrating the nursing profession into team-based care can have tremendous advantages in improving prenatal care for our community, and we should strive to expand these proposed methods.

Therefore, through collaborative efforts, we have an opportunity to meet the specific needs of our patients and ultimately create healthier outcomes for our pregnant women.

Nurse practitioners, with full-practice authority, can play a vital role in contributing to this unique and promising process of renewed health care.

Suzi M. Brannock

Hollidaysburg

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