Infant mortality targeted


WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials intend to finance a proposal by President Bush to combat infant mortality in 10 cities by taking money from other health programs that serve pregnant women, poor children and the homeless.

In a letter yesterday to Congress, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, secretary of health and human services, said the administration planned to take $24 million from community health centers and $34 million from the existing Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant this year.

For next year, Sullivan said, the administration plans to take $33 million from those two programs and shift it to the 10 cities with high infant mortality.

Bush said the 10 cities would be chosen from among "cities with exceptionally high rates of infant mortality," but the government has not disclosed the selection criteria.

Baltimore has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation.

The plan immediately stirred concern among public health experts and state officials, who said Bush was taking money from under-served communities to pay for a high-profile initiative with strong political appeal.

Gov. Lawton Chiles of Florida, chairman of the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality, welcomed the proposal.

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