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IF YOU GO

What: Baby shower and health fair

Who: University of Tennesse Health Science Center

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

Where: Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center, 1010 N. Moore Road

This isn't your typical baby shower.

The BLUES Project of Chattanooga is hosting a baby shower and health fair for new and expectant mothers today to help combat infant mortality.

The project is an initiative of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and is funded by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's foundation arm. The project works with about 400 expecting and new mothers in Memphis and Chattanooga to help them decrease the risk of losing a child within the first year of life - the standard definition of infant mortality.

In Hamilton County, 6.7 babies up to age 1 died per 1,000 live births in 2013 - an overall decrease from 2003's rate of 11.67 per 1,000 live births. But the mortality rate for blacks (11.7) remains more than twice that of whites (5.3), according to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

"If the mom is not healthy going into the pregnancy, that's going to put the pregnancy at risk," said Linda Dr. Moses-Simmons, principal investigator of the BLUES Project and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis. "So the earlier you get started, the better."

Many factors can affect the health of a baby in its first year of life, including poor nutrition during or after pregnancy, smoking while pregnant and lack of prenatal care.

"If we could pick one or two things, it would be a whole lot easier to address," said Lisa Vincent, who works on infant mortality prevention at the health department. "But there are just so many factors that play into infant deaths and our infant mortality rates."

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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