Education Matters

As the old year winds down and a new one begins, we reflect on our current efforts, funded by Pew Charitable Trust and others, to create a new policy framework for home visiting programs for young children at risk. This work seems especially critical in light of the tragedy in Newtown. As we pray for the families who suffered there, we’re also thinking about other families who lost children this year.

At infant mortality rates of 2009 (most recent year with complete data) approximately 26,000 US infants (including 38 in Vermont) died in that year.  This included many who were born too soon or too small.  Preventing preterm birth and early elective deliveries are important steps in addressing these causes. Others are born with birth defects and heritable disorders that may shorten their lives.  These are the leading causes of infant death, particularly during the first month of life.

Many, however, died as a result of preventable events including some SIDS/SUID, injury, and homicide. SIDS is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year old. Injury is the number one cause of death among children and the fifth leading cause of infant mortality, resulting in more than 1,000 infant deaths each year. (CDC info graphic

The infant mortality rate currently places the US 27th among industrialized nations. Subsequently, the federal government has recently made a significant effort to stop this trend by funding effective home visiting programs, which have been shown to prevent infant death. Vermont currently receives $1m per year under this program. Combined with Medicaid funding, the state is making a sizeable investment in these social programs, while also partnering with the Roundtable and providers to improve outcomes.

With the launch in 2013 of the Vermont Business Roundtable Research and Education Foundation, strategic efforts to ensure access to high quality social and educational programs will continue. Thank you for your support in the past for the early childhood policy you’ve helped make possible through your legislative calls and testimony. I look forward to working with you again in the New Year.