Elizabeth Vargas, co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 and outstanding moderator at Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers 5/28 panel in New York, has brought a program of interest to our attention. This Friday, 8/22, at 10 pm ET, she is reporting on infant mortality in the US. While Save the Children is not directly mentioned, Elizabeth tells us that her experience with State of the World’s Mothers Report and Save the Children strengthened her commitment to raise awareness of such an important issue. Child survival in the US and the industrialized world is specifically covered on pages 31-33 of the State of the World’s Mothers Report. And as always, we remind you to take action in any or all of the ways recommended on page 35 of the report.
There are places in America where the unthinkable is happening -- too many babies are dying. In most cities, black babies are dying at three times the rate of white babies. That’s what’s happening in Memphis, Tennessee, the city with the nation’s highest rate of infant mortality. A baby dies there on average every 43 hours. But many people are working to change that startling statistic. “Babyland,” a one-hour report anchored by Elizabeth Vargas, airs on “20/20,” FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, from 10:00-11:00 pm, ET on the ABC Television Network.
Vargas travels to Memphis to report on what is being done there, and to see what the rest of the country can learn. She introduces us to young mothers and mothers-to-be who live in what can often seem to be a foreign country right here at home. Vargas takes us to the potter’s field cemetery run by the county, nicknamed “Babyland,” where babies who do not survive are laid to rest. In Memphis, Vargas asks, “What does it mean that we are losing so many black babies before their first birthday?”
The broadcast follows a black teenage mother-to-be who is mentored by a volunteer from a white suburban church in order to ensure that both mother and baby stay healthy. The surprising relationship between these two women, the poor black mother and the white mentor with comfortable means, becomes the emotional center of the documentary. Their journey through pregnancy and birth and the twists and turns afterwards is an intense story that cuts across the issues of race and class. The mentor reveals her own education through the process: “[The young woman] has seen so much pain in her short life, it makes me appreciate the things I’ve always taken for granted.”
Vargas reports the medical story of infant mortality -- being born prematurely is the primary reason for infant deaths. But this is not a problem that can be solved by medical care alone. “When you go after infant mortality, you’re not going after polio, like the March of Dimes did. You’re going after life,” says the founder of the pioneering neonatal intensive care unit in Memphis, Dr. Sheldon Korones. According to Dr. Korones and others appearing in the program, the dying babies can be viewed as a warning of a dangerous attitude toward the underclass: “Infant mortality is a manifestation of the accumulated social inadequacies that we have tolerated historically.”
Vargas finds dedicated people in Memphis begging for attention to be paid to infant mortality. One of them, Erma Simpson, a long-time counselor of pregnant teens, describes the difficulties of raising money to help poor mothers. “I have trouble even getting donations of maternity clothes,” she says. Vargas wonders if the lack of support is related to the fact that the women needing help are almost all black. “Is it because these babies are black that somehow people care less?” she asks. The black social worker replies, “Yes, period.”
Dr. Kenneth Robinson, a former Tennessee health commissioner who is pastor of a Memphis congregation tells Vargas: “Infant deaths in this nation account for more deaths than all of the other causes of death combined for children up to the age of 18. We should be marching. We should be absolutely indignant about those numbers.”
“Babyland” is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas. Tom Yellin is executive producer. Craig Leake is the producer and editor with co-producer David Appleby.
ABC News Media Relations: Alyssa Ziegler Apple (212) 456-1624
Bill Frist, MDAs you may know, an armed conflict broke out on August 7 in South Ossetia between Georgia and Russia-backed South Ossetian military. UNHCR estimates that more than 100,000 children and families have been displaced from their homes since the fighting began a week ago.
Aug 12 2008
Jenny DyerFind Hope through Healing Hands on Facebook to learn more about upcoming events, latest news, and discuss your own thoughts on global health and peace. This is a great space to let us know what you are doing in your community to promote awareness and advocacy for global poverty and disease. Join as a fan and stay connected.
Aug 12 2008
Joseph H. Kanter Family Foundation and eHealth Initiative Foundation launch partnership to conduct research on health outcomes
Aug 11 2008
Aug 06 2008
Bill Frist, MDOn Friday afternoon, July 18th, we arrived in Kigali tired and a little dizzy after eight hours of flying across East Africa in a Cessna Caravan at 13,000 feet.
Jul 31 2008
Norfolk, VA. (July 31, 2008) — Physicians for Peace, an international organization focusing on medical education in developing nations, announced it will award former Senator Bill Frist the second annual Charles E. Horton Humanitarian Award during the organization’s Celebrating the Nations Gala on Oct 4, 2008. Frist will also serve as keynote speaker for the event. The award was given last year to Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, noted expert on global development and Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Senator Frist, who began his career as a cardiothoracic surgeon, represented the state of Tennessee in the United States Senate from 1995 to 2007, serving as Senate Majority Leader during the final four years of his tenure. Since retirement from the Senate, he has been active in issues of global health and development, including partnering with the charity Save the Children to address the dire crisis in children’s health in the developing world. As Frist announced in September of 2007, he intends to lead a drive by the charity to make the preventable deaths of millions of children in the developing world an issue for all Americans.
Dr. Frist’s work in this field aligns with the Physicians for Peace mission to foster medical diplomacy. As Dr. Frist recently wrote in the Yale Law and Policy Review, “Health is a unique vehicle that crosses boundaries in times of war and distress, and in times of suffering and turmoil. Working to improve the health of our fellow man sends a message that speaks to our common humanity and serves as a vehicle for peacemakers.
The Charles E. Horton Humanitarian Award for Global Health is bestowed in honor of the late Physicians for Peace founder, Charles E. Horton, MD. Horton, an internationally recognized humanitarian, founded Physicians for Peace in 1989 and served as its leader until his death in late 2006. Through Horton’s leadership, the organization has touched the lives of thousands of patients and doctors in more than 50 countries around the world.
“The career of Dr. Frist is a wonderful example of public service,” noted Physicians for Peace CEO, Brigadier General (USAF Ret.). “His segue to humanitarian work following his retirement from the Senate is an inspiration to all Americans. His leadership and commitment to solving the problems of healthcare in the developing world will be an invaluable addition to these ongoing efforts. Physicians for Peace is proud to honor him with the Horton Award.”
ABOUT PHYSICIANS FOR PEACE
Physicians for Peace is an international private voluntary organization that mobilizes healthcare educators to assist developing nations with unmet medical needs and scarce resources. Through effective, hands-on medical education and training, clinical care and donated medical supplies, Physicians for Peace creates long-term, sustainable, replicable, and evidence-based projects to help partner nations build medical capability and capacity to help themselves. Volunteers for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization have conducted medical missions in more than 50 countries. More information is available at www.physiciansforpeace.org.
Jul 26 2008
This interview was taken in Rwanda while Sen. Bill Frist, MD was traveling with The ONE Campaign's delegation to learn more about the country, its initiatives, and what America can do to provide sustainable support.