Premature Births Increasing

Premature births are on the rise across the nation.

The National Institute of Medicine just released a study that shows premature births have increased by more than 30 percent in 20 years.

While pre-natal care could help prevent that, many families in rural counties are at a disadvantage because doctors cannot afford to maintain an office in such small towns.

Colleen Cody, R.N., of the Suwannee County Health Department, said, "We have so many rural counties and many of them don't have O.B. providers. Taylor County, they've had an increase in their infant mortality rate. Lafayette County, also."

Suwannee County resident Timekia Jelks says she's glad a gynecologist travels to the local health department all the way from Gainesville to provide pre-natal care.

Timekia Jelks, six months pregnant, said, "I'd probably have to travel to Lake City and most likely I'd probably miss some of my appointments because gas is high and I work six days a week. It would be kind of hard to get back and forth."

Donna Caldwell, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, ObGyn, said, "There are so many of our patients who are not eligible for Medicaid, they don't have insurance. Hispanic women, just a lot of our women that we see, if we were not here, they would have no resource at all."

Caldwell says pre-natal visits can detect possible infection and high blood pressure early enough to prevent early labor, and significantly raise the chances of a delivering healthy baby.

Health providers from the University of Florida make regular visits to 11 rural communities in our area.