Weld County’s infant mortality rate was double that of neighboring counties, Larimer and Boulder.
Unfortunately, there’s not a single answer. If there was, we may have a good place to start to bring that number down. Instead, we’re left with a lot of maybes.
The acquisition of those maybes, however, has not only been a long and slow process but, as you would expect, a terribly difficult and emotional one. And rather than having pretty much no information on the subject, at least we do have a decent place to start — in the form of those “maybes.”
It started in 2010 when Daphne Rommereim-Madden, a doctor with Westlake Family Physicians, was disgusted with Weld’s infant mortality rate.
Weld’s rate was 7.2 per 1,000 births. Larimer’s was at 3.2 and Boulder’s sat at 3.0. Rommereim-Madden and a number of others — including Mark Wallace, a physician and the director of the Weld County Public Health and Environment — found it unacceptable and with a group of volunteers and a tiny budget, they started gathering information.
Melanie Cyphers also works for the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. There are a lot of difficult jobs out there, but hers has to be somewhere near the top of the list. Cyphers goes out and interviews parents who have recently lost their children. Her drive and desire is to compile information to try to bring Weld’s infant mortality rate down.
Two committees were formed, one to collect the data and try to find any indicators that are common among those who have lost their infant children and another to take that data and figure out how to best address those issues.
The research is ongoing, but as of yet there isn’t one striking, stand-out-above-the-rest reason for Weld’s distressing rate. Yes, the level of people suffering from poverty in Weld is higher than our neighbors to the west. And poverty can be an indicator of infant death rates.
But, as Cyphers points out, the poverty rate in Weld County isn’t nearly double that of Boulder and Larimer counties.
“But we’re not as far apart as you might think,” Cyphers said. “We definitely shouldn’t be double. We shouldn’t be as bad as we are with the resources and even the demographics we have.”
Over the years, through Cyphers’ and her colleagues’ difficult and emotionally challenging work, Weld County’s numbers are trending in the right direction. The county no longer sits at 7.2 per 1,000, but instead at 5.2. Is it directly linked to the work of the two committees? It’s impossible to say. We have a hard time thinking it’s simply a coincidence.
It’s nowhere near where the group would like it to be, which is why work by both committees continues to move forward. That said, the new numbers also equate to a number of families out there celebrating the birth of a healthy new child instead of suffering one of the most devastating events a family can endure.
We encourage Cyphers and the members of the two committees to continue their work and commend them on a difficult job well done.
We also send our best out to those families who have suffered the loss of a child and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for being willing to open up and share their information with Cyphers and her volunteers.
The information may have saved a number of precious lives.
— The Tribune Editorial Board
©2016 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)
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