Tennessee's High Infant Death Rate

"The young women are so hungry for attention," Drumwright said, "and if that's the way they can get it, then that's the way they can get it. Because I do believe a lot of the relationships are very casual, first date, second date.

"It's not a little couple that's been going together necessarily a long time, you know, having a long-term relationship," she added. "It could be something that they just meet up and have sex. And I think that goes back to there not being any men in a lot of the children's lives."

'Every Baby Deserves a First Birthday'

In 2006, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredeson gathered community groups and government agencies for an infant mortality summit meeting in Memphis.

The governor brought his state health commissioner at the time, Dr. Kenneth Robinson, who's also pastor of a Memphis church.

"Every baby deserves a first birthday," Robinson said at the conference. "I want this day to be the day when the people of Memphis and the people of the state of Tennessee stood up together and said: 'We're not going to be silent, we're not going to stand aside as one more child dies in vain.'"

In 2006, 202 babies died. That was far more than the number of homicides in Memphis -- 122 that same year. Even so, it wasn't the babies' deaths that usually made headlines.

"It's a very sad reality that infant deaths don't seem to get the priority, often, that some of the other high profile, newsworthy, six and 10 o'clock news stories do get," said Robinson. "When you really think about it, that infant deaths in this nation account for more deaths than all of the other causes of death combined for children up to the age of 18, we should be marching. We should be absolutely indignant about those numbers."

Officials at the meeting announced state grants to fund more studies and more pilot programs and a billboard advertising campaign.

Dr. Korones remains frustrated.

"I've been going to meetings about this with just chest-beating and programs and so on," Korones said. "But what we need to realize, and I think that we finally do, you're looking at infant mortality as a manifestation of the accumulated social inadequacies that we have tolerated historically. And we happen to be tackling infant mortality.

"There is so much else in that picture, ranging all the way from the proper lifestyle and diet, to the proper education and life itself," he added. "If you're on welfare, and you don't know where your next meal is coming from, and you have to walk wherever it is because you can't buy the gas or whatever those things are, your chances of having a healthy baby are diminished. In this community, when a premature baby is born, society has failed."

One Life Ends as Another Begins

By the time she checked into The Med and family members gathered, Simpson had carried her baby to full-term. With the help of her mentor, Drumwright, Simpson was one pregnant teenager who had done all the right things to take care of herself and her daughter, who was born at 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

It was a difficult delivery, but the baby was healthy. Precious gave her the name Bryson Lewis, the baby's father, wanted: Bryanna. But although he fathered the child, Lewis wasn't prepared to be a dad.

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