The Mercy NICU helps households and their infants get in the Halloween spirit. A nurse made dozens of costumes for the 38 infants for Halloween this yr.

The variety of infants born prematurely in Tennessee elevated from 2015 to 2016 — a development that underscores disparities in women’s health across the state, a maternal health skilled stated.

Overall, Tennessee earned a “D” for its preterm delivery price of 11.three % in 2016 from March of Dimes, a nonprofit targeted on being pregnant and the health of infants. The counties with the very best preterm start charges in the state:

  • Hamilton: 13 %
  • Shelby:  12.6 %
  • Rutherford: 10.5 %
  • Davidson: 10.four %
  • Knox: 9.7 %
  • Montgomery: 9 %

The knowledge is troubling to Dr. Kimberlee Wyche-Ethridge, assistant director for public health follow at Meharry Medical College, due to what it means about the standing of women’s health and elements that affect health — comparable to schooling, housing and meals — throughout the state. 

► More:  

“We’re not doing enough to make sure all of our babies are being born to thrive and survive,” said Wyche-Etheridge. “Babies are the canary in the coal mine. They are a measure of how wholesome a group, a state or a society is. If we see that our infants aren’t doing properly, we all know our communities aren’t doing nicely.”


Black women had highest proportion of preterm births from 2013 to 2015 with 14.three %. White women got here in second with 10.2 % adopted by Hispanic women with 9.1 % and Asian/Pacific Islander women with eight.four %. 

March of Dimes has a aim of a nationwide fee of eight.1 % by 2020. Preterm start charges worsened in greater than 40 states. Tennessee is one in every of 11 states and Washington, D.C., to obtain a “D” on the Premature Birth Report Card.

► More:

In 2007, 11.eight % of infants born in Tennessee have been preterm, or earlier than 37 weeks. Since then, the speed dipped to 10.eight % in 2014, solely to climb again in the succeeding years. 

The group is looking for extra analysis and schooling about the social elements that influence health, starting from neighborhood security to revenue and jobs. 

There are state and native initiatives aimed toward decreasing preterm births, which may result in lifelong continual issues because the individual grows.

Focusing on women’s health earlier than they turn into pregnant is essential, Wyche-Etheridge stated, as a result of it lays higher groundwork for wholesome infants.

“Since prematurity hits each facet of the group, nobody is protected per se, and we’ve to deal with all of our women in all of our households so all of our infants have an opportunity at a wholesome begin.”

► More:

Health screenings and controlling hypertension, weight and diabetes are necessary elements in a lady’s health earlier than she turns into pregnant, stated Wyche-Etheridge, a public health pediatrician who has labored on maternal health issues for 20 years. Reducing stress is significant, she stated, noting that may come from worrying about funds, housing or different sides of life.

Davidson County public health officers analyzed the preterm births by neighborhood and located a large discrepancy. Babies born to women who stay in The Nations and North Nashville have been twice as more likely to have a low delivery weight or be preterm than these born to women who reside in Sylvan Park, the neighborhood on the opposite aspect of Charlotte Pike.

Wyche-Etheridge stated preterm pregnancies can have a cyclical impression on communities.

“What we discover is her health previous to being pregnant is vital, which suggests if we don’t have a group that values women’s health then women will not be going right into a being pregnant in tip-top form,” stated Wyche-Etheridge.

“Without wholesome infants, it is much less possible we have now wholesome adults, and we will not have a wholesome state.”

 Reach Holly Fletcher at [email protected] or 615-259-8287 and on Twitter @hollyfletcher.


Read or Share this story: