Reporting: Monessa Guilfoil
T.J. Ojehomon and Jelani Morson are passionate about having an impact in bringing down high infant mortality rates in Tennessee. These two high school students work as volunteers for a program called Impact through Chattanooga’s Girl’s Incorporated, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote gender equality through education and development of leadership skills for girls.
The Impact group is made up of 10 students who advocate for those who may be affected by infant mortality.
Chattanooga Girl’s Incorporated Blog describes Impact:
“The I.M.P.A.C.T. program was formed in 2008 to address the infant mortality crisis in Tennessee,” said Tracy Windeknecht, manager of special programs for Girls Incorporated of Chattanooga. “The program works to increase awareness about infant mortality and related risk factors and to reduce behavioral choices associated with poor birth outcomes in underserved communities.”
Through I.M.P.A.C.T., teens advocate for public policies that reduce the contributing factors leading to infant mortality such as access to health care, reproductive education, nutrition, and substance abuse. Additionally, they created public service announcements that are aimed at their peers and are building an in-school task force to directly contact students in Hamilton County schools.
Facts about infant mortality in Tennessee:
- Tennessee is ranked 45th in the nation for infant deaths. Hamilton County’s infant mortality rate is higher than the state average.
- Every 12 hours, an infant in Tennessee dies before her or his first birthday.
- Black infants are 2.5 times more likely to die within the first year of life than white babies.
- African-American babies in Hamilton County die at a rate higher than babies in Romania, Bulgaria and Cuba.
The Times Free Press continues with the article, “Chattanooga students bring infant mortality awareness campaign to Washington.”
Hamilton County has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Tennessee, at 11.2 infant deaths for every 1,000 births, according to the state health department. Tennessee has a rate of 8.7 deaths per 1,000 births, while the nation as a whole has a rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the department.
The Infant Mortality public awareness program was launched with a two-year grant from the Governer’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination in Hamilton, Davidson and Shelby Counties-the 3 counties with the highest infant deaths in Tennessee, according to Kelly Gauthier of the TFP. And in March of this year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee’s Health Foundation granted Girl’s Inc. $165,000 to continue the I.M.P.A.C.T. program.
Gauthier also gives some startling statistics regarding infant mortality:
* Nearly seven U.S. babies die out of every 1,000 live births.
* More than 28,000 American babies die each year before their first birthday.
* Low birthweight babies are 19 times more likely to die in their first year.
* Black mothers are more likely to have premature babies than white mothers.
* Infants born to women who wait until the seventh month or later to start prenatal care or received no care were twice as likely to die as women who started care in their first trimester.
* The average first-year cost for a full-term baby is $3,325; the average first-year cost for a premature baby is $32,325.
Source: Girls Inc.
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