SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A new report sheds light on the serious problem of baby deaths in Springfield.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of babies who died went from 25 in 2010 to 44 in 2011.
A new plan for reducing the numbers was introduced during a presentation at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield Friday morning.
Dr. Andrew Balder, Chairman of the Springfield Infant Mortality Review Committee, says the two main causes of death are prematurity and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
"We've seen in this city over the last 7 to 8 years, somewhere between 3 and 8 deaths of children in their first year of life in an unsafe sleep position or environment. All babies should be alone on their back with a firm surface in a crib without a whole bunch of loose, fluffy stuff around," said Dr. Balder.
A map of the city shows infant death rates are the highest in downtown and the Old Hill neighborhood where 20 out of 1,000 children die each year.
"The system itself doesn't engage individuals in care and I'm not just talking about care while pregnant, but prior to pregnancy, a promotion of health, a promotion of care providers," said Dr. Balder.
Advocates and representatives from city agencies that work with at-risk mothers say more support is needed.
"Those that really come to my group, they stay in school and in the process we do, their grades go up. It keeps them healthy throughout, gets them focused on being a parent, being a mother and really looking at their goals and how they can be better parents," said Lorna Isaac from the Springfield Community Action Network 360, which helps refer women to the resources they need.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has given the city a stipend to begin work on reducing the number of babies dying in the city and the plan is already being implemented.
Some of the areas the city will be focusing on are getting women the support they need, coordinating their care, educating them on their health and the health of their baby, and getting fathers involved in the process.