Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton, wants to create an independent state Commission on Infant Mortality to solve the rise in infant deaths each year.

The Children's Defense Fund ranked Baltimore City third in infant mortality with other U.S. cities its size. The city has the highest infant mortality rate for white babies in the country and ranks seventh for black babies, a Children's Defense Fund report said.

Statewide, 11.3 babies in every 1,000 births dies. The national rate is only 10 per 1,000. The legislature created the State Advisory Council on Infant Mortality in 1988 to explain why mortality is higher in Maryland.

Perry and Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore City, have introduced a bill that would establish a permanent commission to design, implement and monitor a strategy to reduce the mortality rate.

"It is clear that infant mortality is a problem in our state, but one that we have the knowledge and expertise to solve given a strong commitment," Hoffman said. "It is our moral duty to address this issue now for these at-risk babies."

The primary causes of infant mortality in Maryland are low birth-weight babies born to drug-addictedor malnourished mothers, said Perry, who also has sought increased state financing for federal nutritional programs for poor mothers and children.

Perry will present her bill to the House Environmental Matters Committee tomorrow. The legislation would adopt the U.S. Surgeon General's goal of fewer than seven infant deaths per 1,000 births.

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