Health officials tackle high infant mortality rate in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee is one of the unhealthiest places for a baby. The state has more mothers who smoke and eat poorly, leading up to and during their pregnancies.

That’s the reason the Metro Public Health Department held a problem-solving workshop Friday. Leaders from Tennessee State University College of Health Sciences and NashvilleHealth attended. Pediatrician and health professionals were also there.

They discussed ways to reduce infant mortality in Nashville over the next three years based on local and national expert recommendations.

In 2014, more than six babies died per 1,000 born, which is way above the national average.

One of the major contributing factors, says Dr. Kimberlee Wyche-Etheridge,  is poor diet.

“You hear people say ‘We’re in the obesity belt, we’re in the hypertension belt, we’re in the diabetes belt,'” said Dr. Wyche-Etheridge. “Those chronic disease affect woman during pregnancy.”

Another issue facing babies in Tennessee is sleep-related death. These are deaths that are mostly preventable using methods like “safe sleep.”

It promotes the ABCs of sleeping babies: Alone on their Back in a Crib.

“I was empowered with that knowledge, but I wasn’t able to save my child because I wasn’t there taking care of him,” said Halima Labi. She lost her baby boy Cameron four years ago.

“He was home with his father who put him on the bed for a nap,” she told News 2. “There was a pillow nearby, he rolled on top of it and passed away.”

Labi says the loss of her baby has never gone away. However, she uses his story as a tool to teach other caretakers about safe sleep.

“If you can’t be there, make sure the person taking care of your child knows how to put a baby down to bed,” said Labi.

Between the Metro Public Health Department and moms who want healthy lives for their babies, Nashville hopes all babies have the chance to flourish after they’re born.

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