Otis Sanford: The county’s infant mortality rate

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For several years, health officials and others in Shelby County have been working diligently to reduce the county's alarming infant mortality rate, and the work had been paying off.

In 2015, the county recorded its lowest level of infant deaths since officials began keeping record. That year, 110 babies died which equated to a mortality rate of 8.2 percent.

One year later, the positive trend unfortunately started to reverse and 123 deaths were recorded. That's a mortality rate of 9.3 percent, according to Tennessee Department of Health statistics.

While that number is still far below the 13 percent rate in 2009, officials are justifiably concerned that the gains made in recent years could easily erode.

Of course, Memphis is saddled with many of the issues that contribute to infant mortality. They include a lack of adequate prenatal care and unhealthy habits by expectant mothers.

The city`s high poverty rate that often leads to poor educational achievement can also adversely impact infant mortality.

Particular attention to the county's infant death rate came after an outstanding series of newspaper articles on the crisis in 2006.

Despite the setback in last year`s numbers, local health officials, policy makers and community partners that work with expectant mothers should be commended for their ongoing efforts helping to keep babies alive and healthy.