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Public Statements

Supporting Efforts To Reduce Infant Mortality

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Supporting Efforts To Reduce Infant Mortality

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Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today to support H. Res. 260, supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States.

I want to thank my colleague Congressman Cohen for his work on this resolution. It has been exemplary, and we thank him for his leadership. I also want to recognize other members of our delegation who have stood with him and with me in this work to address infant mortality, Congressman Tanner and Congressman Gordon, both of whom are original cosponsors, as is Congressman Wamp; and we thank them for their participation.

Congressman Cohen has championed the cause of prenatal care since he and I served together in the Tennessee Senate, and I am honored to stand and work on this resolution with him now. I stand in support of the legislation, and I hope that all of our colleagues will join us in this effort. It is an important issue for Memphis, Tennessee, which, as Mr. Cohen said, is a community we both represent. And I hope that our conversation on the floor today will be just one more step in a unified effort to end the staggering rates of infant mortality that plague many of our communities.

In this conversation, I am reminded of the Healthy Start program that was reauthorized and signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 3, 2008. Healthy Start provides services tailored to the needs of high-risk pregnant women, infants, and mothers in geographically, racially, ethnically, linguistically diverse communities with exceptionally high rates of infant mortality. The goal of the program has been to reduce the factors that contribute to infant mortality, particularly among minority groups, and remains a very important program to help reduce the deaths of children each year.

Congressman Cohen's work certainly builds on this goal. Adequate prenatal care should be available to all mothers in Tennessee and certainly in this country to ensure healthy infants and pregnant women.

The Department of Health and Human Services has stated that children of mothers who receive no prenatal care, and this is a staggering statistic to me, those children born to mothers who receive no prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who receive prenatal care. Again, that is three times more likely to be born at a low birth weight which makes that first year very difficult, and five times more likely to die. This is an area where working together, we can do something.

It is important that our communities and also young mothers get the care that they need in early pregnancy. Memphis, Tennessee, has one of the highest infant mortality rates of any city in the U.S. That isn't a statistic that only impacts the neighborhoods in Memphis where infant mortality is a daily reality, it is a tragedy that all of Tennessee mourns.

By stating today that the rate of infant mortality in Memphis, Tennessee, and in America is unacceptable, we are making another important step toward solving the problem.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady from Tennessee for her remarks which are so appropriate; and I would like to add that there are efforts in Shelby County, the Blues Project and the ABC Project that the county has, to combat infant mortality and work with pregnant women and new mothers.

If a child is born premature, it costs at least 20 times as much money to keep that child alive for the first year. So if their efforts could be successful to eliminate and reduce infant mortality, and some of that comes through programs such as the county and others have--Blue Cross/Blue Shield has the Blues Project--we could save money in the health system because we won't spend so much keeping premature babies alive at the trauma center. It is an example where if we have preventive care and wellness programs, by investing money, we can save money. And we can save so much with infant mortality.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, just to add to the gentleman's comments and to talk a little bit about the efforts that we have participated in in our State, as you look at Shelby County and Memphis, you see there has been a wonderful partnership between your local, State, and Federal entities to address this. Also between the community and the not-for-profit sector, individuals who have said this is a problem. These children deserve to have a healthy start in life. They deserve to have a good solid first year.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the first important step in solving that problem. Certainly we have all worked together for many years to make certain that education is an enormous component of the step forward to address low birth weights, to address infant mortality, and to make certain that our children get that healthy start that they need in life.

I commend those who have worked with us at the local, State and Federal level, as well as the community partners in Shelby County and across the State of Tennessee, who have made this a priority. I thank the gentleman for his leadership on the issue.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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