Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition Releases Statistics About Local Children

Friday, September 27, 2013 - by Allen Coffman, MD

The Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition – Tennessee Valley has released the following findings about the health of Chattanooga area children (Southeast Tennessee, North Alabama, North Georgia and South Western North Carolina).

Infant Health

• Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are top 10 in most preterm births (2nd, 7th and 10th).

• Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee are top 10 in number of low birth weight infants (3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th).

• Alabama and Tennessee are the second and third worst states for infant mortality. 

• The infant mortality rate for African Americans in Hamilton County is 18 percent.  This is greater than the infant mortality rates in Mexico, Bulgaria, Columbia, China, Jordan, Oman, Georgia, Moldova, Panama and Romania.


• Tennessee is 8th worst state for Child Obesity.  Two of every five local children are overweight.

• One of every three children in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee are overweight. 

• Nine of every 10 obese adolescents become obese adults.

• Two of every five obese adolescents become severely obese adults. 

• People who are obese have annual medical costs that are $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Mental and Behavioral Health

• Tennessee ranks 43rd in the number of children with mental health or behavior problems. 

• The number of children ages 2-17 with a parent who reports that a doctor has told them their child has autism, developmental delays, depression or anxiety, ADD/ADHD, or behavioral/conduct problem has increased from 16 percent to 21 percent in the last four years.


• One out of every eight children in Tennessee and Alabama suffered from Asthma symptoms this last year (tied with Delaware as worst in the country). 

• Chattanooga ranks the 5th worst asthma city in the United States, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.   

• The American Lung Association of Chattanooga has found that asthma is the number one reason children miss school and parents miss work.

Medical Home

• 7 percent of local children have no health coverage.

• Children in our region are 20 percent more likely to not have primary care than children nationally.

• One out of every five South Chattanooga children and one out of every 10 Ridgedale/Oak  Grove/Clifton Hills neighborhood children are not ready to start kindergarten because of physical problems.


The Tennessee Valley (Southeast Tennessee, Northeast Alabama, North Georgia and Southwestern North Carolina) is experiencing pervasive and complicated pediatric health challenges.  Our community is struggling with identifying the issues fueling these trends.  In addition, we lack an organized infrastructure that could develop and direct pediatric health resources to improve the region's health outcomes.  

These pediatric health deficiencies have a dramatic, long-term impact on our community.  Large cultural, geographic and socio-economic groups have limited access to care.  Many children are at a disadvantage due to poor maternal health, inadequate perinatal care, lower percentages of school readiness, obesity and increased impact of chronic disease.  These deficiencies exponentially increase the community's overall health cost, are barriers to improving the school system's performance, and limit the capability of our potential work force.

Most communities have recognized these identical challenges.  There is a well developed body of work analyzing community trends, identifying contributory factors and creating community-based approaches to address these problems.  We are also seeing aggressive and innovative restructuring of regional health care delivery occurring in all of Tennessee's major medical regions.  Chattanooga is critically off the pace for pediatric healthcare in this regard. 


The Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition - Tennessee Valley (PHIC-TV) is a community health partnership.  The purpose is to improve the pediatric health of all Tennessee Valley children.  We are currently raising funds to begin a four phase strategic planning initiative. 

In Phase I, PHIC-TV plans to complete an analysis of the Chattanooga pediatric healthcare market.  This will include defining the region's population health needs and demographic trends.  The analysis will map market share and quality of current ambulatory and in-patient offerings.  It will also model future demographic shifts, healthcare demand and the impact of healthcare reform.  

Using the analysis in Phase I, Phase II will call on community leaders to develop a vision for pediatric healthcare.  A series of presentation forums and inclusive, participatory workshops will be used to bring community stakeholders, medical industry leaders and providers together to plan future goals.  These meetings will lead to a detailed plan for the development of a comprehensive care system over the next five years.  The final step of Phase II will be a gap analysis of the difference between the coalition's vision and the current pediatric healthcare resources. 

Phase III will define pragmatic, efficient and sustainable delivery models for the region's comprehensive pediatric healthcare services.  This will include diagramming the options for local and regional alignment of pediatric providers, medical service vendors, in-patient facilities, community health-focused organizations, medical academics and payers.  The future vision of a comprehensive pediatric network in Chattanooga will be explored in terms of the integration of best practices, emerging innovations, impact of health care reform and other financial and regulatory pressures.  In Phase III, similar existing institutional examples will be catalogued.  We will also project community infrastructure modifications and/or expansion requirements. 

Phase IV will complete a time and cost accounting of proposed alignment, operating and care delivery models.  Physician and other provider demand will be reconciled with resources and potential outcomes.  The Coalition will define requirements and capital costs of facility and other infrastructure needs.  We will produce a detailed impact plan on region healthcare outcomes.  This impact will be the basis of a development campaign to complete the community accepted recommendations of the Coalition.

Once our strategic planning campaign is complete, we will have a robust picture of our community and its pediatric health challenges.  Our health, cultural, religious, education, business, and political leaders will have a more singular view of the problems and potential solutions.  This data will empower the development of a cost-effective and efficient regional pediatric healthcare system.  This long-term, comprehensive road map will be resilient to the stress of current national changes as it meets the needs of all of our region's children.  Finally, PHIC-TV will begin a development program to implement a pediatric provider alignment, refine delivery of care systems and construct new facilities.  

The Tennessee Valley's children are among the unhealthiest in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and the nation.  Because of future progress based on this project, our children and the system that cares for them can become an example of community wellness.  Our city is a national leader in business development, natural beauty and cost of living.  It is time that we continue that narrative of excellence in the story of our children's health.  We have the health provider talent and leadership, we have the community commitment, we have the philanthropic heart, and we have the political leadership.  This project will provide a needed tool to congeal and energize these components so that Chattanooga can be what we desire:  a world class city for all children.

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