Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Babyland:Not A Place For Children

By: Gaétane Borders 

I learned something today that really troubled me so much that I simply had to write about it. I found out that there is a place in America where babies die at a rate that would be expected in a third world or underdeveloped nation. But, it’s not Somalia, Angola, or Cambodia that I’m writing about. Nope, it’s Tennessee! Of the 23 richest countries, the United States has the highest rate of infant mortality, according to the CIA World Fact Book.

The first city health department report warning that Memphis had a problem with infant mortality was issued in 1935. Clearly, this issue has not changed because the state health department has reported that in Shelby County, a baby dies every 43 hours! Hospitals are reportedly overwhelmed with the number of single mothers who lack of prenatal care. The babies most at risk are African Americans from the most impoverished parts of town.

Every Tuesday and Thursday in Memphis, as the miniscule bodies accumulate, the Health Department takes over for the families who can't afford a funeral. The tiny bodies are buried in a cemetary referred to as Babyland. Although the name is reminiscent of an amusement park filled with exciting rides and pony rides…it is not a place you will ever want your children to go.

So what are the factors that influence child mortality?

Here is a list of issues that negatively affect pregnancy and/or child health:
  • Lifestyle Choices 
  • Maternal Health 
  • Alcohol and Drug/Substance Use 
  • Birth Defects 
  • Poor Nutrition 
  • Disease (STD) 
  • Irregular Prenatal Care 
  • Infections 
  • Closely spaced pregnancies 
  • Psychological Stressors 
  • Poverty 
  • Domestic Violence 
As you can see, the issues on the list are preventable or easily treatable. However, community education is key. There are many organizations and initiatives that provide free or very affordable services that can help save the lives of babies. Here is a short list:

Healthy Start

Designed to meet community needs, the projects include outreach, case management, health education and community consortia. For more information, visit

Medicaid and SCHIP

Medicaid is a state and federal partnership that provides access to prenatal care for eligible mothers and health coverage for millions of infants from low-income families.

Toll-free prenatal care hotline

A toll-free hotline to assist pregnant women and others seeking information on prenatal care, including referrals to local clinics and physicians. Assistance is available in English at 1-800-311-BABY (2229) and in Spanish at 1-800-504-7081.

The situation in Memphis is truly saddening. However, it is my sincerest hope that sufficient intervention occurs that will help to make an impact on the trend that we are seeing. Much of this is preventable…but outreach is sorely needed.

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