Elizabeth Perry, Executive Assistant/Communications Associate for NHSA, on how she learned about infant mortality.
In D.C., the first question after you’re introduced to a new person is, “And what do you do?” The standard answer is the name of your company, what the company does and your role in the company….which results in a glazed looking head-bob from the questioner. Since I began at NHSA, I’ve had a simpler and more direct response, “I save babies.”
I didn’t set out in this job to save babies. That may sound funny, since I obviously knew where I was working, but it’s absolute truth. You see, I’m the only staff member WITHOUT a background in MCH. In fact, I couldn’t have told you what MCH stood for on my first day. (It’s Maternal and Child Health, for those stumbling blindly across this blog.) My background in women’s health focused on women, but I didn’t know much about infants and pregnancy. I learned, and I learned quickly.
I began reading about the work of Healthy Start, and the incredibly tragic need for more of the work. How could so many babies be dying before the age of one? While I’ve never experienced pregnancy, I’ve sympathized deeply with friends who have miscarried. I’ve seen the loss and the grieving they’ve done for a child they never held. As I read more about the infant mortality rates in this country and around the world, I couldn’t imagine the depth of loss experienced by those who’ve given birth and lost their child.
Working at NHSA has been my introduction into the tragedy that is the IMR in this country. I’ve learned about babies dying in alarming numbers, and I’ve learned that babies of color die much more often than white babies. I’ve been horrified by the statistics and moved by the stories I’ve heard from women and men who persevere in making their families healthier.
I’m not a case worker or nurse or family therapist; these skills are outside of my abilities. But I do have skills. We all do. I choose every day to use my skills to spread awareness about the epidemic that is infant mortality in this country and to advocate on behalf of those working in the field. I choose to spread the word about infant mortality, because if babies are dying, we should be doing something to stop it.
I urge you to use your skills or your voice to spread the message that infant mortality is real in this country; babies are dying, and we MUST do more to educate people. If you pass the message on, when someone asks what you do, you can say, “I save babies” too.