Diversity Forum Preview: Infant Mortality and Poverty

Diversity Forum Preview: Infant Mortality and Poverty

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - What are the keys to ending poverty and how can we ensure equal access to services and opportunity for everyone?

Those are some of the issues that will be tackled tonight in a special town hall meeting in Columbus.

News Leader 9's Barbara Gauthier joined us live from the city services center to tell us how you can be a part of the discussion.

It starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the new City Services Building on Macon Road, and we hope everyone will come and be a part of the conversation.

This town hall meeting sponsored by WTVM and the Mayor's Commission on Unity, Diversity and Poverty will look at many of the issues surrounding poverty in our community.

Infant mortality is one of those issues. In Muscogee County, the rate of babies dying before their first birthday is among the highest in the state. Experts believe if you can lift more women out of poverty those numbers can be turned around.

Fatima Robinson, 24, beams with pride as she gazes at 2-month-old Maliah. The baby girl is doing great now, but months before she was born Fatima worried there might be complications.

"She was always measuring way behind from what she was supposed to be," Robinson said.

Fatima, like many young mothers relied on Medicaid for pre-natal care and says she found it difficult at first to even find a medical provider who accepted her form of Medicaid after a move to Columbus from Atlanta.

"Before I moved down here, half the places I called did not take Medicaid and it was through a friend who said try there and that's how I heard about Trinity," Robinson said. "After I got the proper care her weight started to pick up."

Doctors say getting the proper pre-natal care is key to preventing low birth weight deliveries and infant mortality.

In Georgia the number of babies who die before their first birthday is 6.8 per 1,000 births, and Alabama numbers are even higher at 8.7.

But shockingly, the numbers skyrocket in Muscogee County to 11.3 deaths per 1,000 births.

"Women of lower socioeconomic stature are at risk for pre-term delivery and are going to always face infant mortality," said Dr. Joy Baker, an OBGYN at St. Francis Hospital.

Dr. Baker says poverty and infant mortality go hand in hand largely because many women of lower economic status lack health insurance. While many like Fatima may have Medicaid, getting the right care is not always an easy process.

"Women can experience difficulty finding a provider, they can experience difficulty even applying for Medicaid, they can even apply for the wrong type of Medicaid and find once they get to the doctor's office that they've been declined," Dr. Baker said.

"Medicaid is like the most complicated thing in the world," Robinson said. "They ask for stuff and then you send it in and they ask for stuff and you send it in and you wait forever before you hear back from anybody."

Fatima believes making Medicaid simpler would help so many women and babies get the care they need, and Dr. Baker agrees. She also says providers need to be better trained to help guide people through the process.

She says most women simply need to be educated on how to care for themselves and their unborn child.

"In order to get the right education you have to be able to see a provider and if you're not able to see a provider you can almost bet they're not going to know the things they need to do and like Oprah Winfrey says when you know better you do better,"

Fatima was able to get the pre-natal care she needed at St. Francis' Trinity Center for Women.

The center's mission is to reach out to expecting women who are unable to afford medical care. Since opening in 2009 they have served more than 1,400 pregnant women, many of whom were at risk for miscarriages, low birth weight babies and other complications.

Fatima and her husband Anthony married about a year ago with baby Maliah and 7-year-old son Isaiah. She says their lives are stable, and they are looking forward to a bright and more prosperous future.

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