Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford Received the Tennessee Department of Health BEST Award for Efforts to Decrease Infant Mortality

Apr 27, 2022 at 06:40 pm by WGNS

In 2020, more than 6 out of every 1,000 infants in Tennessee did not make it to 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, early elective delivery elimination, and safe sleep to meet the criteria for the BEST award. The BEST award stands for Breastfeeding, Early elective delivery reduction, and Safe sleep for Tennessee babies.

Increasing breastfeeding, reducing early elective delivery, and increasing adherence to safe sleep practices can reduce infant deaths.

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

• Breastfeeding:  Maintain baby-friendly designation through the year, increase five percent or more in breastfeeding initiation rate from one year to the next, or have a breastfeeding initiation rate of 82 percent or higher. 

• Early Elective Delivery:  Have an early elective delivery rate of five percent or less.

• Safe Sleep: Have either the Cribs for Kids National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification or a safe sleep policy meeting current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. In addition, must have submitted cribs audits to TDH with a minimum of 90% of cribs considered safe.

*It's important to note that Ascension Saint Thomas Midtown also strived to meet the same above criteria. 

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“We are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of babies across Middle Tennessee and are pleased to receive this recognition for our efforts,” says Kristen Toth, vice president of women, 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 life-saving education, resources, and support for new parents."

Sleep-related deaths account for approximately 20 percent of all infant deaths each year. Premature birth and unsafe sleep environments were among the leading causes of infant death in 2020. Breastfeeding is a known protective factor against infant mortality and improves the mother and the baby's overall health. Focusing on these efforts can increase the number of babies who get to 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 the TDH and THA in this effort to reduce infant deaths.

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

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