State of Public Health: Giving Babies the Chance They Deserve
David Lakey MD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice
December 2012 
Volume 18  Number 6
Pages 631 - 632
  PDF Version Available!

In 2009, 12.2% of babies born in the United States were preterm-that is, more than 500 000 babies.1 In 2008, the infant mortality rate stood at 4.29 per 1000 live births.2 While both of these statistics are trending ever so slightly in the right direction, there is more that can be done. The health case alone is compelling: every child born in the United States deserves the best chance possible to start life with a healthy beginning. Add to that a just-as-compelling economic case-an Institute of Medicine report says that preterm birth and the associated complications have an economic cost of at least $26.2 billion3-it is clear that we as a society must do all that we can to accelerate the downward trends.That is why I chose to challenge my state and territorial health official colleagues to take steps to improve infant mortality and morbidity in their states. Each year the incoming president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) issues a challenge, and as ASTHO president in 2012, I issued the Healthy Babies President's Challenge, with 3 primary aims: 1. Focus on improving birth outcomes as state health officials and state leadership teams work with state partners on health and community system changes. 2. Create a unified message that builds on the best practices from around the nation and the efforts from Health and Human Services regions IV and VI (south and southeastern states, from New Mexico and Oklahoma to Kentucky and North Carolina), which can be adopted by states, US territories, and the District of Columbia. 3. Develop clear measurements to evaluate targeted outreach, progress, and return on investment.State and territorial health officials have the capability to have a tremendous positive impact in the area of maternal and child health. But do not mistake capability for ease. As with any endeavor, there are challenges. That is why I am proud and humble to report that health officials in 48 states and Washington, District of

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