Congressman Cohen Introduces NEWBORN Act to Reduce Infant Mortality Rates

January 3, 2019
Press Release


Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now (NEWBORN) Act to help address America’s unacceptably high infant mortality rate with concrete measures.  If enacted, the bill would create infant-mortality focused pilot programs in the highest-risk areas of the country to help those areas most in need address this problem.

“Memphis continues to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Although we have made progress over the years, we must do more to help mothers in Memphis. This includes ensuring that pregnant mothers have the resources they need to deliver healthy babies and the tools to raise them to become healthy adults. The NEWBORN Act will be a good first step.”

In Tennessee in 2016, 597 children died before their first birthday, including 123 in Shelby County. Shelby County’s infant mortality rate was 9.3 per 1,000 live births, which was a 13 percent increase over 2015 and significantly higher than both Tennessee’s rate of 7.4 and the national rate of 5.9.

In the United States, more than 23,000 children died before their first birthdays in the U.S. in 2016. That’s higher than the infant mortality rate of 19 other wealthy countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The NEWBORN Act pilot programs would be designed to educate

at-risk and potential mothers about pregnancy and prenatal care. This legislation will help us gain a better understanding of the causes of infant mortality and best practices for preventing it.

Grant funding would go toward addressing one or more of the top five reasons for infant mortality including (1) birth defects, (2) preterm birth and low birth weight, (3) sudden infant death syndrome, (4) maternal pregnancy complications, and/or (5) injuries to the infant.

The measure has been cosponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Tony Cardenas, Andre Carson, Adriano Espaillat, Raul Grijalva, Marcy Kaptur, Shelia Jackson Lee, Robin Kelly, Derek Kilmer, Betty McCollum, A. Donald McEachin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Donald Payne Jr., Lucille Roybal-Allard, Tim Ryan, Jose Serrano, Terri Sewell, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In August 2018, Congressman Cohen hosted a symposium on infant and maternal mortality at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. He was joined by Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) as a co-host as well as an expert panel of health experts from across the Memphis area. The event focused on the needs of mothers in Memphis, the barriers to improving maternal health care, and reducing infant mortality and resources available in Shelby County, including free car seats for those who need them.