More Hamilton County funding in store for infant mortality reduction efforts

More Hamilton County funding in store for infant mortality reduction efforts

March 20th, 2016 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Erlanger hospital and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department are moving forward financially on a number of public health initiatives.

On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Commission voted 8-0 in favor of several items generally described in terms of housekeeping by Commissioner Tim Boyd.

"For the most part, these resolutions are continuations of annual items, through the county, that the county commission is authorized to approve," Boyd said.

One approved measure calls for the county to commit $230,000 to the Fetal Infant Mortality Review and Community Infant Mortality Reduction services program, which is administered by the health department, for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. It is the same amount committed to the program for the current fiscal year.

Efforts to decrease infant mortality rates have been a "public health victory," health department spokesman Tom Bodkin said in a phone interview after the county commission meeting.

County funding goes toward initiatives driven by community partnerships that attempt to combat infant deaths by means of education and improved access to health care, said Dianna Kreider, director of case management services for the health department.

Infantry mortality is defined by the death of a child of up to one year of age, she said. Causes can range from birth defects to injuries, spurred by a number of factors, including poor health of mothers, poverty and lack of prenatal care.

While 2016-2017 makes for the second year of county funding for the program, the origins of current programming combating infant mortality can ultimately be traced back to efforts that began 16 years ago, Kreider said.

Infantry mortality reduction services intensified for the department in 2007, a year after Hamilton County was recorded as having 11.2 infant deaths for every 1,000 births, she said. At the time, the county ranked higher than state and national averages.

In 2014, Hamilton County had reduced that rate to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 births, cutting the 2006 rate in half, Kreider said. The state average for 2014 was 6.9 infant deaths for every 1,000 births, she said.

Commissioners also approved an intergovernmental transfer of $9.7 million of Erlanger Hospital funds as part of a process administered through the state's TennCare program to secure nearly $30 million in federal money intended to assist public hospitals offset expenses associated with treating uninsured patients.

"The funding goes toward offsetting unreimbursed costs associated with the high percentage of uninsured and under-insured patients that Erlanger treats," said Steve Johnson, vice president of government and payer relations for Erlanger Hospital.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or