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The special $700,000 federal grant to help reduce the high incidence of infant mortality in Buffalo represents a meaningful use of U.S. tax dollars. It is an excellent investment in the health of children and their families in the city.

This extra money is earmarked to get the word out about the value of immunization and about which community agencies can help mothers and families with a variety of problems.

Buffalo's infant mortality rate, at 12.6 deaths for each 1,000 live births of babies, is triple the rate for the rest of Erie County. It's substantially higher than the statewide average: 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Moreover, these latest figures, for 1994, indicate that the risks of infant mortality are spreading into more neighborhoods on Buffalo's East and West sides and into the Kensington-Langfield area.

The funds come from a special federal program established in 1991 to combat high infant mortality around the country. Locally, the aid will be channeled through the Buffalo Prenatal and Perinatal Task Force. It is the lead agency for a consortium of 30 non-profit agencies, hospitals and state and county programs that address needs of children.

The infusion of extra funds will enable the task force to add staff and expand one-on-one contacts with more new mothers. The assignment is to emphasize to the mothers the importance of immunization to the health of their new babies and to inform those mothers about assistance available to them and their families from a variety of local agencies.

Together, all of this should reduce the infant mortality rate and, in addition, help prevent serious health problems among children in the future.

High as the city's infant mortality rate is, it had been even higher -- 15.5 deaths for each 1,000 live births in 1991. So while the present rate is far too high, it still reflects modest progress that can be built upon in the future.

Mildred Hill, network program coordinator for the task force, says the goal of this enriched focus on infant mortality is to cut the Buffalo rate to "no more than 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births by the year 2000."

Numerous infant deaths could be prevented with enriched knowledge about healthy pregnancies and more careful care. Each infant death marks a loss of human resources, a waste of human talent and potential that blemishes our community -- and our affluent American society.

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