DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - Different groups in Dougherty County have come together to curb the high number of babies born dangerously early in the region.
Health workers said preterm births can be deadly. So, they're doing all they can to protect some of the most vulnerable in the community.
"Use our remote, we mash a button and she answers," Director of Centering Pregnancy in Dougherty County Valenia Milling pointed out as she described a new machine.
Telemedicine is just one of the tools those in the Centering Pregnancy Program are using to fight a very big problem.
"It's due to some really major health disparities in the areas of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality," explained Milling.
March of Dimes workers said the preterm birth rate nationally sits at 10.6 percent, while locally it's even higher at 11.2 percent.
So, with the resources they have, Dougherty County health workers are teaming up with them and Amerigroup, making an effort to ensure more babies stay alive.
"Some don't live to see their first birthday," said March of Dimes Representative Shannon Pittman. "So, we fight every day for all moms and all babies to make sure all babies are born and have a healthy start."
That begins with education, support and assessments. All things that district public health leaders said aren't cheap, but are critical because early births can lead to much higher rates of sickness and death.
"It's a tragedy for the child, tragedy for the family and it also has an economic impact on the community," District Health Director Charles Ruis said.
Those involved said they've begun to see a big difference over the past several years.
The program specific preterm birthrate is now almost half of what those in the county face.
A number that those running the program are proud of and one they said will make the future brighter for many families.
March of Dimes and Amerigroup gave a grant of more than $10,000 to the Centering Pregnancy program this week.