Bexar County low birth weights affected by access to care, doctor says

Bexar County's percentages of low birth weights worse than state average

A local doctor believes low care access is causing San Antonio to have so many babies with low birth weights.

This week's county health rankings highlighted the issue, which local agencies are now coming together to address.

Registered nurse Suzie Aldous runs the NICU at Baptist Hospital and sees a lot of tiny babies. She said she's not surprised by this week's county health rankings, which showed that 9 percent of Bexar County babies are born under 5 1/2 pounds. For African-American babies, it's 15 percent, almost twice the state average of 8 percent. 

Low birth weights are such a widely recognized issue that the Metropolitan Health District formed the Healthy Family Network, a new program that joins local hospitals and health agencies working together to lower the percentage of local babies born underweight. Its first meeting was Monday.

"We were looking at what's causing this. What are the key factors? One of the themes that came out of that was the lack of access, lack of transportation, lack of prenatal care, lack of insurance," Aldous said.

Substance abuse is also a big factor in low birth weight.

"We have a higher drug ratio than Dallas and Houston combined, so that in part will play a part of the low birth weight," she said.

Aldous said the answers all revolve around education and outreach for moms in all neighborhoods. 

"Getting people into the homes to do education. We need lots of education out there. We need to get people the transportation they need to get to care," she said.

Ten committees will continue to research different aspects of the problem and try to find real solutions. 

Risk factors for low birth weight include smoking, air pollution, lack of prenatal care, chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, substance disorders, teen pregnancy, poor nutrition and stress.

About the Author

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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