NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A new report from the Tennessee Justice Center states Tennessee has the 8th highest infant mortality rate in the nation.
The non-profit public policy organization aimed at assisting low-income families issued the report on Wednesday, citing 2016 data which shows Tennessee's rate of 7.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births is well above the 5.8 per 1,000 national average.
Premature births and low birth weight are primary factors playing in the high rate, but it is what leads to these factors which has TJC concerned. According to the report, nationally, the number of women who smoke while pregnant is 8%. But in Tennessee, that percentage is 14.9% with several counties reporting 27.1% of pregnant smokers.
The highest rate was in Madison County with 15.2 per 1,000 in 2015 and Davidson County reported 7.3 per 1,000. On a micro level, the report states women in the Sylvan Park and The Nations neighborhoods were twice as likely to have a preterm birth or give birth to a baby with low birth weight compared to women in Sylvan Park, indicating racial disparities.
The annual Child Fatality Report states approximately 29% of infant deaths in Tennessee in 2015 were linked to mothers who smoked. Other health factors facing mothers in the state include obesity, high blood pressure, and opioid use leading to neonatal abstinence syndrome (drug addicted babies).
As for a way to combat these factors leading to the high rates, the TJC states prenatal care is essential, as only 52.4% of pregnant women had adequate prenatal care in 2016. Only 40.7% of black mothers also reported adequate prenatal care. In order to get proper care, TJC recommends more health coverage options before birth.
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