June 29, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 26




Texas gets 'Newborn Babies Week'

Photo of Ramamurthy, Vidyasagar, and Vajpaye (L-R) Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy chats with Dr. Dharmapuri Vidyasagar, a neonatologist from The University of Illinois at Chicago, and Atal Bihari Vajpaye, health minister of India, during the recent celebration of the declaration of "Newborn Babies Week" in India.

Thanks to efforts by Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, pediatrics, and two state senators, Texas has become the first state in the nation to have a "Newborn Babies Week" declared by the state Legislature. Senate Resolution No. 750, which called for the special week, was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Wentworth and co-sponsored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini.

Dr. Ramamurthy got the idea to create a special week for Texas when she saw a similar celebration in India last November. She was one of two representatives from the Physicians of Indian Origin at the declaration ceremonies held at the Indian prime minister's residence in New Delhi. She brought the idea to the Texas Medical Association (TMA) committee on maternal perinatal health, which she chairs.

"The TMA is an effective voice in the Legislature," she said. "Through a well-laid-out procedure, issues can be very effectively presented to the Legislature, and the members listen."

Texas ranks second in the nation in the lack of prenatal care during the first trimester, Dr. Ramamurthy said. In five of the 12 public health regions in Texas, more than 32 percent of the women have no first-trimester prenatal care.

A state-level core committee will meet in Austin in September to plan the agenda for the first newborn week. It is expected that the state-level organizations involved with maternal infant issues will combine forces to address the issues. The TMA committee has identified increasing attendance for first- and second-trimester prenatal care as the first task, Dr. Ramamurthy said.

Among other findings by the TMA committee, the Texas infant mortality rate and neonatal mortality rate of 6.4 and 4 per 1,000 live births, respectively, are similar to the national figures of 7.2 and 4.8. However, Texas has the ninth highest adolescent birth rate among all states, and the rate more than doubled from 6.3 percent in 1992 to 16.1 percent in 1997 (the latest figures available).