New Study Shows Teamwork Improves Birth Outcomes in Southern States

The United States currently ranks 27th among industrialized nations in infant mortality but rates vary significantly according to race, socioeconomic status and geographic location. To address very high rates of infant mortality, 13 Southern States requested support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Together with public and private partners, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), launched the Collaborative Improvement & Innovation Networks (COIIN). Now, a new analysis by researchers at HRSA shows that such networks can make a big difference when it comes to factors that play a role in high infant mortality. The study, which published online April 19 in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), shows that such networks improved preterm birth, early elective delivery, smoking cessation rates and promoted safer sleep in newborns in those 13 Southern states.

 “Over time, we hope such improvements will lead to a reduction in the high infant mortality rate in these states,” said Professor Michael Lu, MD, MS, MPH, now a senior associate dean for academic, student & faculty affairs at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. Lu, who is a senior author of the paper, launched COIIN when he was the Director of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for HRSA.

“Infant mortality is a key indicator of population health and quality of care,” Lu said. “This study shows that the COIIN teams are taking coordinated action that could help keep babies healthier, regardless of their zip code.”

HRSA Senior Health Scientist Ashley Hirai, PhD, served as the study’s lead author. “The Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality: Southern Public Health Regions IV/VI Outcomes, 2011-2014” will appear in the June print edition of AJPH.