Mamas, don't let your babies be born in Nevada

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If there's a negative health statistic floating out there, you can bet Nevada is attached to it: alcoholism, teen pregnancy, compulsive gambling, suicide, smoking, we've got it all.

This week, we were able to add "one of the 10 worst states to be born in."

As a Nevada mother, that really chaps my hide.

"One of the 10 worst states to be born in." I have a tough time diagraming that phrase much less explaining to my daughter why I didn't just waddle over the state line to give birth in a more respectable place like Utah or California.

Luckily, her birth predates the study by 10 years, but some of my best friends are mothers who gave birth to Nevada babies between 1990 and 1999. And fine babies they are.

"One of the 10 worst states to be born in." What a welcome for babies born today at Carson-Tahoe Hospital or St. Mary's or Washoe Med.

We're proud of our children's status as "native Nevadans." Are we wrong?

The study was prepared by the research firm Child Trends and Kids Count. It says Nevada outranks only Arizona, the District of Columbia and New Mexico, for the percentage of women who did not seek prenatal care.

But we're improving. In 1990, 8 percent of the women who gave birth to Nevada's 21,599 newborns didn't seek prenatal care. In 1999, we had more babies, 29,362, but the number of mothers not seeking prenatal care had dropped to 7 percent.

The study ranks the states in eight categories. Surprisingly, Nevada does the best in the category of the percentage of total births to mothers who smoke. We ranked No. 18 in 1999.

Nevada's mothers languished in 48th place in two categories: the percentage of total births to mothers with less than 12 years of education and the percentage of total births to mothers who received late or no prenatal care.

The state ranks 41st in percentage of total births to unmarried women and 32nd in the percentage of total births to teens.

According to the study, "some of the measures tracked in 'The Right Start,' such as lack of timely prenatal care and the percentage of mothers who smoked during pregnancy, reflect conditions prior to birth that can affect the health of an infant.

"Other measures, such as low birth-weight and preterm births, reflect a baby's health status at the time of birth. New research associates premature births with significant developmental delays and very

low birth weight with educational problems that last into adulthood. "Characteristics of the mother (marital status, age and education) are likely to be related to conditions that place children at risk of poor educational and other outcomes. For example, the poverty rate for children born to an unmarried, teenage, high school dropout (79 percent) is 10 times that

of children born to a married women over age 20 who has finished high school (8 percent). "

Nevada ranks 23rd in low birthrates of less than 5.5 pounds and 37th in the percentage of preterm births.

I don't have any solutions, but I do have a question. What are the statistics on Nevada's fathers?

"One of the 10 worst states to be born in." If President Bush sends Gov. Guinn back to Nevada tonight with the keys to our country's new nuclear waste dump, "worst state to be born in" might not be too far from the truth for reasons that have nothing to do with education, low birth rate and prenatal care. That's not fair to any of Nevada's babies -- past, present and future.

Sheila Gardner is night desk editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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