SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - A newly-released report aims to shed light on the maternal and infant health crisis here in the United States.
According to the March of Dimes 2019 Report Card, preterm birth rates have risen for the fourth year in a row.
Tennessee received a "D" grade with a preterm birth rate of 11.1%. That's an improvement from the previous year.
Shelby County got an "F" with a preterm birth rate of 12.5%.
"Racial disparities, socioeconomic challenges that we face in Shelby County makes it worse than the rest of the country," said Dr. Ajay Talati, Le Bonheur's NICU medical director.
Medical experts say prevention is key and support outside of a hospital setting is also necessary.
“Shelby County especially, we have high risk for maternal diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension and a lot of other pregnancy-related morbidities that make prematurity more likely,” said Talati.
According to March of Dimes in Tennessee, the preterm birth rate among black women is 45% higher than the rate among all other women followed by white and Hispanic women.
The report shows Memphis is among 10 cities with the highest rate of preterm births in the country.
"It's a multifaceted issue and so there's not one thing that contributes overall. Each woman and each baby, factors are going to be different within that situation," said Tamara Currin with March of Dimes in Tennessee.
Experts say social factors play a crucial role and access to good care can be challenging.
"Regarding access. Whether you have insurance or not. Whether you're using it or not and even access in terms of can you get there with transportation," said Currin.
The report card also includes recommendations for possible solutions and actions like expanding group prenatal care programs, ensuring women have access to public health insurance programs and addressing chronic inequities in care.