Addressing diaper insecurity in Tennessee during Diaper Needs Awareness Week

In the state of Tennessee, there are 326,490 children under the age of 3, and 49% of births are covered by Medicaid.1 The impact of diaper insecurity for these children and their families is significant. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 families in the United States cannot afford enough diapers for their child.1

To support these families, more than 3,674,359 diapers are distributed yearly at five diaper banks in Tennessee.1 To help distribute diapers and raise awareness, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee recently participated in Diaper Needs Awareness Week. Seventy-five members of the Tennessee Employee Volunteer Council donated over 165 hours at diaper banks and community organizations in Memphis, Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville between September 24 and October 2, 2022.  They wrapped more than 31,000 — and distributed more than 38,000 — diapers. In addition, they also gave away other items including 22,000 wipes, 10,000 menstrual care products and 100 containers of formula.  

Not having diapers can have health and financial consequences

Diaper rash and urinary tract infections (UTIs) are both associated with diapers not being changed as often as needed.2 This can occur when an individual does not have access to enough diapers. Based on UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee 2019 claims data, the annual costs related to diaper rash and UTIs were $3 million.

Tennessee Employee Volunteer Council members help wrap diapers for the Bare Needs Diaper Bank at the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, TN on September 26, 2022.

Getting diapers to people can reduce these care costs and improve the family’s ability to earn income. Children who do not have diapers cannot attend childcare centers or preschools, which can lead to caregivers missing work and losing income. Nationally, 57% of parents who experienced diaper insecurity and rely on childcare said they missed an average of 4 days of school or work in the past year because of a lack of diapers.1

In Tennessee, diapers cost roughly $80 a month​ per child.1 They are not a covered benefit under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. For a parent or caregiver making minimum wage, roughly 8% of their income will go toward diapers. Most families who are challenged with diaper insecurity fall short by 20 diapers a month.3

Something as simple as an inadequate supply of diapers can lead to other health and economic consequences. By connecting people to critical resources, we can help members stay healthy. UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee is committed to working with our community partners to address the social determinants that contribute to widening gaps in health and well-being.  

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