Leaders look at reducing deaths of infants & moms in Missouri's Bootheel

MISSOURI (KFVS) - Medical and government leaders in Missouri's bootheel are continuing their goal to take care of more mom's before, during and after pregnancy so they survive and their babies thrive.

That mission brought together dozens of medical professionals, outreach workers and business leaders to Miner, Missouri, on Friday, April 20. for the 20th annual Low Birthweight Partnership Initiative.

One speaker at the event was Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services for the State of Missouri, who was also an obstetrician for 30 years.

Williams said it's important to concentrate resources in the bootheel in order to address the high infant and maternal mortality rates in the region due to a lack of medical care.

"What I see is that people are realizing we can do better," Williams said. "One thing we are keenly interested in is increasing the number of obstetricians, nurse practitioners, and midwives in the bootheel."

Vanessa Frazier is a mother of two low-birthweight babies from New Madrid County and said the obstacles she faced with her children inspired her to become a 'prevention person' and help other moms through her work with organizations like Missouri Bootheel Healthy Start.

"Healthy start wasn't here when I had my children, and if I would of had that information I would've made better decisions," Frazier said. "With the issues we are having here, it's critical we get the appropriate information to women of childbearing age and expecting moms. Let them know the steps they have to take to put things in place for the children to be born healthy and grow."

Frazier's said a lot of mom's don't realize that low-weight babies can have lifelong health complications, which can mean high medical costs. For example, her son developed a degenerative disease, so his spine wasn't fully developed, and he has had back surgery and is set to have neck surgery later this year.

"Low birth weight is not a joke and every aspect of that child's life will be affected," Frazier said. "My grandson was born one pound zero ounces and he was a fighter. They called him a miracle. His name is Kennan Josiah. He is three years old and he is in school now, but he still has to have regular checkups and care."

Williams one of the biggest things that will help is encouraging moms to visit a doctor as soon as they think about becoming pregnant or become pregnant.

"About 40 percent of many of our moms don't come to their first appointment until they're about 13 or 14 weeks pregnant," Williams said. "When we look at things like heart disease, diabetes and risk factors such as smoking and being overweight, we feel like if we can see moms earlier we can impact on that part of maternal mortality."

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