The infant mortality rate in the Bootheel region of Missouri is among the highest in the nation, prompting an education effort aimed at keeping babies safe.
The Sikeston Standard-Democrat reports that a child born in a six-county area of the southeast corner of Missouri is less likely to survive its first year than a child born in Romania, Tonga or Botswana.
The U.S. infant mortality rate is 5.9 deaths per 1,000. The Missouri rate is 6.5 deaths per 1,000. In some areas of the Bootheel, the mortality rate is as high as 11.7 deaths per 1,000. Over the past eight years, 135 babies have died in Dunklin, New Madrid, Mississippi, Pemiscot, Stoddard and Scott counties.
The organization Bootheel Babies & Families is promoting safe sleep education for parents and caregivers. Project management coordinator Robert Turner said babies should sleep alone, on their back and in a crib or other safe sleep surface.
"The majority of infant deaths in the Bootheel — about 50 percent in 2016 — are attributable to unsafe sleep habits such as bed sharing and suffocation," Turner said.
Sarah Ezell, chairwoman of the Bootheel Babies & Families steering committee, said multiple organizations are working together to try and keep babies safe and decrease the high mortality rate.