Lifting Health through Collaboration
By: Kellie Spilman, MPH
A Step Ahead Foundation
“In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity,”
– Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz
Memphis has been called many things. Home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, grind city — all nicknames we’re proud to put on display to any non-Memphian who dares speak ill about our beloved town. Exciting new developments, successful basketball teams, and a growing food culture have led our city to a boom in Memphis pride. We’re happy to embrace that pride — and we should. We have a lot of reasons to be proud.
We can’t let that pride in our culture blind us to an area where we tragically need improvement: our health. Memphis has been called the least healthy city in America — and for good reason. Our city falls within the bottom five American metro areas for indicators in infant mortality, diabetes, obesity, homicide, illegal drug use, heart disease, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Close to half of the children in Memphis are living in poverty, and rates of asthma, obesity, teenage pregnancy, and gang involvement for these children are significantly higher than their more fortunate peers.
In order to improve the health of all of our residents, we need to start from day one. Infant mortality is a tragedy no one can ignore. Infant health is connected to educational, health, and economic outcomes later in life. We need to band together to take care of our most vulnerable fellow Memphians — and there are ways we can do this that are proven to make an impact. We need to start by providing women with the tools they need to plan their children: babies born from an unplanned or teenage pregnancy are at higher risk. We need to help families access education about infant nutrition and best practices. We need to make sure parents have a way to access medical care for their families so that they can work with their doctor to determine the best plan to keep their families healthy.
Thankfully we have organizations in Memphis that can help with all of these things – and they deserve our pride just as much as our restaurants and sports teams. So let’s cheer for March of Dimes and the Early Success Coalition, organizations working to improve the health and lives of our babies. Let’s tell all of our friends about A Step Ahead Foundation, which provides free birth control to any woman in Shelby County (and not just any birth control, the most effective, top of the line birth control – IUDs and implants). Let’s celebrate our amazing network of community clinics who are providing care to our most vulnerable citizens. These organizations are something to be proud of, and as we help lift Memphis up, let’s not forget our most valuable assets.