published Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Chattanooga students bring infant mortality awareness campaign to Washington

Audio clip

Jasmine Ray & Kermisha Tate

WASHINGTON — A group of Chattanooga teens offered state lawmakers some ideas Wednesday on how to reduce the infant mortality rate in Tennessee.

Part of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga, the students met with Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both R-Tenn., and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., to discuss their work in schools, educating their peers on how to keep babies — and mothers — healthy. Group members are participants in Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Infant Mortality Public Awareness Campaign in Tennessee.

“Our whole program is based on education,” said Jasmine Ray, 17, who attends Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. “We talk about how to lay the baby inside the crib, how the mother needs to be taking folic acid and exercising and eating healthy. No drinking or smoking.”

Hamilton County has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Tennessee, at 11.2 infant deaths for every 1,000 births, according to the state health department. Tennessee has a rate of 8.7 deaths per 1,000 births, while the nation as a whole has a rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the department.

As part of their trip, the Chattanooga students also met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials and are headed today to New York City for more meetings and a tour of a community health center in Brooklyn.

“Everybody seems to be onboard and supporting us,” said Kermisha Tate, 16, who attends Boyd-Buchanan School. “They, along with us, want infant mortality to not be as much of an issue as it is.”

Rep. Wamp praised the students for their advocacy.

“This is an educational process, where we try to eliminate infant mortality, allow healthy babies to be born and have a grassroots effort through the young people,” he said.

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