Why is it important to raise awareness about infant mortality?

Today marks the first day of September, the first day that reminds us Fall is near, and the first day of a month where we pay special attention to an issue plaguing our so many communities in this country. Today we start our 30 days of awareness, but also 30 days of celebration for those babies who are turning 1 year old, 2 years old, 3 years old and on.

As we begin the month, I can’t help but recall a recent conversation I had with a young woman from a Louisiana newspaper. She was calling to confirm the black infant mortality rate for New Orleans because “it seems extremely high,” she says. I informed her that while I didn’t have the statistic directly in front of me, that it sounded pretty accurate. She also said her editor asked her to confirm the statistics because he said “if they are really that high, then we have an epidemic on our hands.”   I wanted to scream “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?? OF COURSE WE HAVE AN EPIDEMIC!” I was in awe and frightened that people who I thought should know, have no idea that babies are dying at such alarming rates in their very own backyard. I shook my head in disbelief, as I thought about all of the work we have all done to educate and inform communities about infant mortality. I realized we still have a lot of educating to do.

We not only have to educate our soon-to-be mothers and fathers, families, health professionals, non-profit and community based organizations but also that person you are sitting next to on the train or standing behind in line at the grocery store. We must inform everyone we come in contact with to make sure they truly understand how this issue also affects them. Many people are not aware that the infant mortality rate often serves as an indicator of a nation’s health. If our rate is ranked 31st among other industrialized countries, what does that say about the health of the United States? What does that say about the health of our population? To me, it says that we need to get to work on helping people better understand how everything impacts their health and the health of their children. What they eat, where they live, the life experiences they have and the resources and services they have access to, all ultimately have an impact on their health. It is important that we raise awareness about infant mortality to the corporations who sell packaged food, the developers who build homes, the mental health professionals who treat stressed people and so many others who we may not otherwise think have an impact on our health, but do. We have some hard work ahead of us this month, but knowing we will save the life of a baby, makes it all worth it.

Throughout the entire month, NHSA will use this blog to hear from many of our community and national leaders in the maternal and child health field, asking them the question “Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness around infant mortality?” I know I will enjoy reading their responses and hope you will follow the blog this month to hear what they have to say. We encourage you to join NHSA this September in our efforts to increase awareness and spread the word about infant mortality. We also encourage you to spread the word about infant mortality in your community. We have great tools on our website to help you learn more about the issue. We believe that collectively, we can help save the lives of millions of babies in this country. Help us make sure every baby reaches their first birthday, their second birthday, the fifteenth birthday and their thirtieth birthday!

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

World Breastfeeding week in celebrated every year from August 1 to 7. This year, more than 170 countries are celebrating this great event with the theme Talk to me! Breastfeeding – a 3D Experience which emphasizes the importance of communication. When we look at the breastfeeding support, not only should we see it in the two dimensions of time (from pre-pregnancy to weaning) and place (the home, community, health care system, etc), but also in the third dimension of communication at various levels and between various sectors. That is what “3D” means.

Breastfeeding is regarded as a good way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need and protect them from illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.

Although breastfeeding has been increasing in popularity in many countries in the Americas, much remains to be done to optimize breastfeeding practices. In most countries of the Americas, fewer than half of babies begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is low, ranging from 8% to 64% of babies in different countries of Latin America.

To promote the advantage of breastfeeding, all of us can use our most powerful tool — COMMUNICATION — to tell others why breastfeeding matters. By enhancing the perception and knowledge about breastfeeding and bringing the dialogue to life, we can make this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebration a true 3D experience: an opportunity for outreach, an investment in a healthy future, and ultimately, a unifying lens through which to see the world.

For more information, please visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org.

National Movement for America’s Children

Citizens and organizations across the country are awakening a National Movement for America’s Children, a grassroots coalition that is collectively calling for a national strategy to help ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development. We will deliver policies and actions – from government, business and media, to schools, faith-based organizations, communities and individuals across the country – that are focused on giving every child the best chance to succeed.

Until November 6th (exactly one year before the 2012 election) movement members and partners will be hosting town hall sessions and logging onto www.movementforchildren.org to contribute different answers to what we refer to as “The Big Question”: How can we ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development?

The National Healthy Start Association is proud to be a founding partner as a National Movement for America’s Children grows across the country. We think the Movement is of great importance to the development of the United States. By raising the awareness that children’s health is the top priority for our nation, by asking Americans to stand up and join the call for a national strategy and help us decide what the policies and actions should be within that strategy, this Movement can help to ensure that every child in America is given an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development.

Every American can join in and contribute to the Movement. It begins with signing the National Children’s Pledge at www.movementforchildren.org and sharing and debating answers to The Big Question. Supporters can also organize your friends and neighbors in your community to sign the pledge, hold house parties to share the message and recruit others, call on your elected officials to support community-based approaches to healthy child development and many, many more activities. For specific ideas on how you can participate, advocate and/or donate to support the Movement, please visit www.movementforchildren.org or contact the National Healthy Start Association.

NHSA Launches New Website!

The National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) is pleased and excited to announce the launch of our brand new website!

The new site provides great functionality, improved navigation, and more information so that we may better serve you. This site helps make clear the organization’s purpose and direction. It also spells out NHSA’s enhanced Mission & Vision, as outlined in our recently released 2011-2014 Strategic Plan.

NHSA_New_Website

The site features an eye-catching design with a user-friendly navigation system that allows viewers to quickly find the information they need. Including Infant Mortality Awareness resources, a searchable database of Healthy Start Projects, and the most current news in MCH, the website will capture the purpose and dedication of the NHSA members and friends, and draw visitors in to learn more.

We hope you will enjoy visiting the new site as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it for you!

20 Members of U.S. House Sign Letter in Support of Healthy Start

20 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter in support of $105 million in funding for Healthy Start.  The letter was sponsored by Congressman John Yarmuth and Congresswoman Karen Bass and delivered to the House Appropriations Committee on May 20.  The letter urges the committee to level fund Healthy Start at $105 million, the same amount of funding in fiscal year 2010 and 2011.  House leaders have pledged to cut the Labor/HHS/Ed appropriations bill by 13% this year, so it is especially important to let Members of Congress know of the impact and importance of Healthy Start programs and services.

The Members of the U.S. House of Representatives that signed the letter include:

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

Rep, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)

Rep. Eearl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA)

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA)

Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO)

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA)

NHSA 12th Annual Spring Conference

We will be hosting our 12th Annual Spring Conference themed, Healthy Start 20 Years and Beyond: Improving the Health of Families, March 6-9 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The conference will include several workshop sessions and forums that are open to the public. There will be three main Plenary sessions. The first, kicking off Monday morning is called The Voice of Healthy Start and features our most unique conference attendees — Healthy Start families! The second and third are on Tuesday — Strategies for Success: Moving Healthy Start Forward Another 20 Years in the morning and Thinking Outside of the Box: Innovative Strategies to Advance Healthy Start in the afternoon.  On Tuesday morning, the Assistant Secretary of Health, Howard Koh, MD, and Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator for the Human Services and Resource Administration will bring greetings to conference attendees.

There will be fantastic workshop topics including Community Voice: Taking it to the People; A Study of Depression, Substance Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence Among Pregnant Women; and Support Circles for African American Fathers . The conference will culminate with a kick-off rally to prepare conference participants as they head to Capitol Hill to meet with their respective Senators and Members of Congress about the importance of supporting Healthy Start programs in communities.

In addition, the conference will feature some fantastic guest speakers, including Dr. Camara Jones, Dr. Adewale Troutman, Dr. Michael Lu, and Lisa Bernstein.

It’s not too late to register! Onsite registration opens at 2:30pm on Sunday, March 6 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. Additional information can be found here.

Influenza and Pregnancy: After 2009 H1N1

Contributed by: Sonja A. Rasmussen, MD, MS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA

Pregnant women have long been known to be at increased risk for severe illness from influenza.  For this reason, flu shots have been recommended for pregnant women by key professional groups for many years.  However, before the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, vaccination rates among pregnant women were low, the lowest of any of the adult groups for whom influenza vaccination was recommended.

We are now well into the first influenza season following the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.  However, we entered this flu season armed with considerably more knowledge about influenza and pregnant women than we ever had before.  The focus on influenza and pregnancy that occurred during the 2009-2010 flu season led to unprecedented collaborations between CDC and its partners in maternal and child health.  These collaborations resulted in research to better understand influenza during pregnancy.   We now know that pregnant women with influenza who are otherwise healthy can become severely ill and die, even in the 21st century.  We also now know that early treatment can prevent severe illness and death. Pregnant women with 2009 H1N1 who were treated early with antiviral medications were less likely to require admission to an intensive care unit and less likely to die.  And we have more data to show that getting a flu shot during pregnancy can protect infants from influenza for up to 6 months after birth. These babies are at high risk of complications from influenza, but the flu shot is not recommended for them because it doesn’t work well – their immune systems are too immature to respond appropriately.

Equally as important, we know more about what motivates pregnant women to get the flu shot.  Surveys conducted by CDC colleagues have shown that health care providers’ recommendations are powerful:  pregnant women whose health care providers recommended flu vaccination are much more likely to receive flu shots.  Based on this research, messages targeting pregnant women and their health care providers were developed, and these messages were disseminated in new ways – moving beyond the brochure to social media, videos, and posters.  And the great news is that these efforts paid off — recent data suggest that influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women was higher last year than ever before.  Data from 10 states participating in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) showed vaccination coverage during the 2009-2010 flu season for pregnant women was 50.7% for seasonal influenza and 46.6% for 2009 H1N1.  This compares to 11.3% of pregnant women receiving the seasonal flu shot during the 2008-2009 season, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey.

But how do we build on this success, now that the media attention has faded?  As professionals who care about the health of mothers and babies, we need to continue to work together to do the research and to develop and disseminate messages that work. I’d like to thank you for your continued partnership – together our efforts are making a difference in the lives of mothers and babies!

My CDC colleagues have developed influenza communications materials that target pregnant women:

  • Posters to promote flu vaccination for clinics and patient rooms:

Print posters yourself:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/pregnant/preg.pdf (English)

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/pregnant/preg_esp.pdf (Spanish)

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/pregnant/flu_pregnancy_poster_508.pdf (English)

Or order from the warehouse http://wwwn.cdc.gov/pubs/ncird.aspx (scroll down to Flu Materials/Pregnant Women)

  • Patient-friendly educational DVD movie and PSA for your waiting room:

You can preview the movie or send patients to this link: http://www.cdc.gov/CDCTV/ProtectBaby/

Order from the warehouse http://wwwn.cdc.gov/pubs/ncird.aspx (scroll down to Flu Materials/Pregnant Women)

  • Podcasts for pregnant women:

Pregnant Women: Know the Signs and Symptoms of Flu http://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=4062255

Pregnant Women Need a Flu Shot   http://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=4061727

Additional information about flu and pregnancy can be found below:

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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