Archive for September, 2009

Pregnant Women and H1N1: What You Need to Know

It is not known if the H1N1 virus will cause pregnant women to have a greater chance of getting sick or have serious problems or how the virus will affect babies. What is known is that pregnant women are more likely to get sick than others and tend to have more serious problems with seasonal flu. These problems may include early labor or severe pneumonia. No one is sure if H1N1 virus will have the same affects, but it should be taken very seriously.

The CDC has provided everyday steps to help prevent the spread of germs and protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based gel hand cleaners are also good to use.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. (If you are pregnant and you live or have close contact with someone who has H1N1 flu, talk to your doctor about medicines to prevent flu.)
  • Have a plan to care for sick family members.
  • Stock up on household, health, and emergency supplies, such as water, Tylenol®, non-perishable foods.

What to do if you are breastfeeding:

  • A mother’s milk is made to fight diseases in her baby. This is really important in young babies when their immune system is still growing.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding if you are ill. Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection.
  • Be careful not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face, wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Your doctor might ask you to wear a mask to keep from spreading this new virus to your baby.
  • If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.

If you would like to watch the video archive of the August 27th Webcast on what pregnant women and new mothers can do to prepare for the H1N1 flu, please visit

You can also visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant Women and Novel Influenza A (H1N1)
Virus: Considerations for Clinicians.

Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms’ Crying Need

“If African American, Latino and Native American babies are too often in jeopardy, that means that this country is miserably failing women of color, and black women in particular, in the process of birthing healthy babies.

That’s the message that we should be sending this September, during Infant Mortality Awareness Month.”

Kimberly Seals Allers, Editorial director of Women’s eNews, wrote this fantastic piece on the racial disparities in infant mortality rates. According to the intro, “During Infant Mortality Awareness Month, Kimberly Seals Allers would like to spur a public conversation about racial health disparities and reducing the pressures on black motherhood.” The article asks tough questions about the effects of racism on maternal and child health, as well as pointing out “a woeful lack of research on the racial and ethnic differences affecting certain diseases and their treatment.”

“When we can lift the veil off the truth of our experiences as women and mothers, even when it involves uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable realizations about our own belief systems and institutional processes, only then we can really move forward.”

Kimberly also posts on blog called MomLogic, and she featured tips from NHSA’s Toolkit for Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

Another Health Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate

With great fanfare, the Senate Finance Committee released their version of health reform earlier this week. While the exact bill language is not yet available, a 223 page summary is available here.

Of particular relevance to the Healthy Start network is the proposed creation of a new $1.5 billion funding stream specifically for evidence-based early childhood home visitation programs (see page 69 of the summary). Funding would be awarded to the states to serve communities  that “are at risk for poor maternal and child health and have few quality home visitation programs.”

The home visitation programs supported through this new program would need to show positive impact on maternal and child health, childhood injury prevention, school readiness, juvenile delinquency, family economic factors and coordination with community resources. In addition, the summary makes clear that any home visitation model that receives support would need to be evidence-based, have been in existence for at least three years, be associated with a national organization and evaluated using randomized controlled trials with evaluation results published in a peer-reviewed journal. States would be allowed to use 25% of their funding to support “promising models” that do not meet the requirements listed above.

The Senate Finance Committee plans to mark-up their version of the bill next Tuesday, September 22.  As you know, the Senate Health, Education and Labor (HELP) committee also has jurisdiction over the issue and approved their version of the bill in July. In addition, remember that the House version of health reform, released in June, also proposed an early home visitation program that would be implemented through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

NHSA will continue to follow this issue closely and provide regular updates as the bills move forward in the Senate and House.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

House Passes HR 260 Supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States.

In honor of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution today supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States.  The resolution, H.Res. 260, was sponsored by Congressman Stephen Cohen, Democrat of Memphis, TN, and was cosponsored by 117 other Members of the House.

The resolution includes statistics related to the infant mortality rate in the United States, highlights the importance of prenatal care and concludes by stating that the “House of Representatives supports efforts to understand racial disparities and the rate of infant mortality in order to lower the rate of infant mortality in the United States.”

Speaking in support of the resolution on the House floor, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, stated:

“I am reminded of the Healthy Start program that was reauthorized and signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 3, 2008. Healthy Start provides services tailored to the needs of high-risk pregnant women, infants, and mothers in geographically, racially, ethnically, linguistically diverse communities with exceptionally high rates of infant mortality. The goal of the program has been to reduce the factors that contribute to infant mortality, particularly among minority groups and remains a very important program to help reduce the deaths of children each year.”

A copy of the resolution can be found here.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

NHSA Executive Director on TV in NOLA

Stacey Cunningham, Executive Director of National Healthy Start Association was in New Orleans, LA at the end of August. While there, she was asked to appear on Channel 4 Morning News with Dr. Kevin Stephens, Health Director for the City of New Orleans, to discuss back to school healthy choices for parents and children. You can watch Stacey’s interview here.

Home Visiting Programs Improve Women & Children’s Health

Since February, Home Visiting Programs have been the topic of conversations within the Obama Administration, the 2010 budgets and within the walls of our very own organizations. They are vital to the health and well-being of women and children, especially those living in low-income and very low-income communities. Late last week, the Guttmacher Institute released a statement about their new policy analysis that was published in their Summer 2009 issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review, indicating benefits of such programs on women and children.

Here is a snapshot of what they had to say on their website:

Home visiting programs that would be significantly expanded under a new initiative proposed by the Obama administration have demonstrated modest but important benefits for children and significant benefits for women, according to a new policy analysis published in the Summer 2009 issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review. Home visiting programs pair new families—particularly low-income, single-parent ones—with trained professionals who provide parenting information, resources and support throughout a child’s first few years.

“Home visiting programs have gained some real and well-deserved traction, especially with the Obama administration’s request for $8.6 billion over the next 10 years,” says Heather Boonstra, author of the policy analysis. “The current health care reform effort could well be the vehicle to secure funding for the program, as home visiting provisions have a good chance of being included if and when reform legislation is enacted.”

The rest can be accessed here, as well as link to the Policy Review where the article was published:

Congress Approves Healthy Start Funding

Before leaving town for the summer recess, the House and Senate were both successful at passing the funding bill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The House and the Senate provide nearly identical funding for Healthy Start — $105 million from the House and $105.372 from the Senate. This represents a slight increase over last year’s level of $102 million.   In addition to providing funding for Healthy Start, both the House and Senate included report language that highlights and calls attention to different aspects of the Healthy Start program.

The Senate report states:  The Committee provides $105,372,000 for the healthy start infant mortality initiative. The fiscal year 2009 comparable level was $102,372,000 and the same as the budget request.The healthy start initiative was developed to respond to persistently high rates of infant mortality in this Nation. The initiative was expanded in fiscal year 1994 by a special projects program, which supported an additional seven urban and rural communities to implement infant mortality reduction strategies and interventions. The Children’s Health Act of 2000 fully authorized this initiative as an independent program. The Committee urges HRSA to give preference to current and former grantees with expiring or recently expired project periods.

The House report states:  The Committee provides $105,000,000 for Healthy Start, which is $2,628,000 above the fiscal year 2009 funding level and the budget request. Healthy Start provides discretionary grants to communities with high rates of infant mortality to provide ongoing sources of primary and preventive health care to mothers and their infants. Currently, 102 communities have Healthy Start grants. The increase provided in the bill will support two to three new grants to communities.The National Fetal Infant Mortality Review (NFIMR) program, an important component of many Healthy Start programs, provides evidence-based interventions crucial to improving infant health in high risk communities. The Committee believes HRSA should continue to use Healthy Start funds to support the NFIMR program and that all Healthy Start Programs should be encouraged to implement NFIMR.

A complete copy of the Senate report can be found here.  The House report is found here.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

2009 Banner

Today marks the 1st day of September and the beginning of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month. As an organization whose primary focus is to reduce infant mortality, especially in minority communities where the rates are significantly higher than other communities, this is a special month for NHSA.

In 2005, Congressman Michael C. Burgess, 26th District of Texas, introduced Resolution 402 directing Congress to observe September as National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the resolution in September 2006. Since then, September has been nationally recognized as the month where we focus on increasing awareness about infant mortality, highlight the factors that contribute to infant mortality and urge community leaders to rally with us to help reduce the number of babies dying before their 1st birthday. The United States continues to have one of the highest rates of infant mortality at 6.78 according to a 2008 CDC report.  Sadly, babies in Black, Hispanic and American Indian communities are dying at rates that are 3-4 times higher than White communities. Many minority communities also have infant mortality rates that are 3 times higher than the national rate!

To commemorate the month, NHSA and the 102 Healthy Start projects around the country will be hosting or participating in a series of community events.  From community block parties in Indianapolis to a 5k Run/Walk in Rockville, MD, we will all be doing our part to educate and inform women, men, businesses, and others about infant mortality. We ask that you join us this September, but also in the months to come to help us give babies a healthy start.

My plea to you is to do at least one thing, no matter how big or small, that will help our country have healthier babies. Whether it is taking an expectant friend to her first trimester appointment or volunteering with teen girls to discuss healthy lifestyles, you can help save the life of a baby. Together we can help families be healthier and have healthy babies!

Check out NHSA’s website for events occuring in Healthy Start communities this month.

The  Office of Minority Health has a listing of NIMAM events occurring around the country.

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month