Baby Box Program discussed with Health Council

Published 5:34 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Giving additional support for up-and-coming Tennesseans continues to be a goal for Ballad Health.

During Wednesday’s Carter County Health Council meeting representatives from Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City provided officials with updates about the Baby Box Program that is now being offered through Ballad Health hospitals in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Heidi Dulebohn, director of community engagement with Ballad Health, told local health officials that 25 percent of infant deaths in the states are due to unsafe sleeping, according to information provided from the Tennessee Department of Health.

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But with the Baby Box, newborns are provided with a free decorative box that is outfitted with a mattress, cover and educational information to help parents throughout the childcare process.

“This is about education,” Dulebohn told officials. Parents that accept the box must sign up for Baby Box University — a free health education website that features thousands of videos and articles to assist parents.

The idea of the baby box was first discovered in Finland — a practice that has taken place over the course of 80 years — and has been credited to the country’s low infant mortality rates, according to Dulebohn. Niswonger unveiled their own program in November 2017 and noted that parents have been receptive to the box.

Having a baby box in place is just one way to help combat infant mortality rates across the state, Dulebohn said. Locally, Carter County is in a good position when it comes to the livelihood of children but the director indicated that Carter County ranks 94th out of 95 counties with an 80-percent ranking of children that are reportedly diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

During a recent tour of Niswonger Children’s Hospital, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.) noted that roughly one-third of the infants at the hospital were suffering from NAS and that the hospital keeps the child for an extended period of time to withdraw from symptoms.

Dulebohn added that the health system is continually looking at ways to assist the mortality rate across the state and Southwest Virginia.

Baby boxes are provided to all parents of newborns, if they accept, within Ballad Health. Individuals can also visit to learn more about the program.

Health Council has been on the forefront of promoting healthier initiatives within the community and served to be the birthplace of Grow Carter County — the grassroots effort from the public that help the area receive Healthier Tennessee Community status from Gov. Bill Haslam.