Tennessee’s High Infant Death Rate

Baby Death Public Health Crisis Thwarted by Poverty

Aug. 22, 2008 ABC’s Health News Blog

There are places in America where the unthinkable is happening: Thousands of babies are dying.

The costs associated with saving a premature infant can be staggering.

Of the 23 richest countries, the United States has the highest rate of infant mortality, according to the CIA World Fact Book. And in Shelby County, Tenn., which encompasses Memphis, the state health department says a baby dies every 43 hours — a rate higher than that of any other major city. The babies most at risk come from impoverished parts of town with largely black populations.

This old Mississippi River town is now part of the “new South.” More than a million people live in Memphis’ city and suburbs. As in many other places, the city has been divided between those who can afford an upgraded lifestyle and those who remain in the older version of the city.

In the richer sections they’ve created their own parks, hospitals and schools — and, of course, churches.

Twice a year the Rev. Eli Morris, a minister at Hope Presbyterian, leads volunteers from his suburban congregation to a mission downtown, where they tour what can seem like a foreign country.

Support at risk children, start a KARA group in your community.

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  1. If ever there was an example of the need for a health care reform bill that includes the public option; the infant mortality rate in parts of Memphis would be it.

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