MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - More babies are living to seeing their first birthday in Shelby County. The county's infant mortality rate is at a record low.
At 10 deaths per 1000 live births, it's the lowest ever for Shelby County. The African American community saw the greatest decrease in infant mortality of nearly 50 percent.
But health leaders say babies are still being born too small, too soon and too frequently.
"I'm really very excited about that, it is a victory of the community," stated Yvonne Madlock, Director of the Shelby County Health Department. "It is an indication of what can really happen, when there's community will, when there's leadership at all levels in the community."
Infant mortality is the official term for when babies die before reaching their first birthday. Most babies who die in Shelby County do so within the first 30 days of their life. It's an issue the county has been tackling for years.
"Enhancing the chances of every single baby who's conceived in Shelby County to be born here and born healthy and to survive and thrive, not only to his or her 1st birthday but to really go on and become a healthy toddler," Madlock added.
It's a plan that is working but it takes a countywide effort, including advances in medical treatment and greater access to prenatal care and health care after a baby is born.
Shelby County Mayor Luttrell says working with moms isn't the only key to sustain this issue. "We've got to engage not only the mother but also the father, to the extent that we can get the father involved to make it indeed a mother/father type arrangement to help raise that child."
Funding to help out mothers comes through state, federal, and private sources. The county trend is headed in the right direction.
Their main goal, Luttrell said, "We've got to keep doing what we've been doing well and then we've got to really enhance programs like Healthy Shelby and through our health department and community service agencies, and faith-based organizations. We've got to continue to raise the standards so that we can do better."