Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford received Tennessee Department of Health’s BEST Award for efforts to reduce infant mortality

As of 2020, more than 6 in 1,000 infants in Tennessee have not reached their first birthday. In an effort to save lives, Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford has partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) and the Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) to reduce infant mortality by promoting breastfeeding, elimination early elective deliveries and safe sleep to meet the criteria for the BEST award. The BEST award represents breastfeeding, reducing early elective births, and safe sleep for babies in Tennessee.

Increasing breastfeeding, reducing early elective deliveries, and improving adherence to safe sleep practices can reduce infant mortality.

Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford has endeavored to meet the following criteria set by TDH around these topics:

• Breastfeeding: maintain the Baby-Friendly designation throughout the year, increase the breastfeeding initiation rate by 5% or more year over year, or have a lactation of 82% or more.

• Early Elective Birth: Have an early elective birth rate of five percent or less.

• Safe Sleep: Have either national certification from the Cribs for Kids Safe Sleep Hospital or have a safe sleep policy that meets current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, must have submitted crib audits to TDH with a minimum of 90% of cribs deemed safe.

*It is important to note that Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown has also endeavored to meet the same criteria above.

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“We are committed to improving the health and well-being of babies in Middle Tennessee and we are thrilled to receive this recognition for our efforts,” said Kristen Toth, vice president of women’s, children’s and oncology services, Ascension. Saint Thomas. “We are proud to work with the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Tennessee Department of Health to provide vital education, resources and support for new parents.”

Sleep-related deaths account for approximately 20% of all infant deaths each year. Premature births and unsafe sleeping environments were among the leading causes of infant death in 2020. Breastfeeding is a known protective factor against infant mortality and improves the overall health of mother and baby. Focusing on these efforts can increase the number of babies who celebrate their first birthday.

Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown and Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford are committed to the health and safety of all patients and are proud to partner with TDH and THA in this effort to reduce infant mortality.

For more information on the BEST award, visit the TDH website at:

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