Author Archive

We Fight, So Babies Don’t Have To!

Today is World Prematurity Day and our opportunity to focus everyone’s attention on the serious problem of premature birth. Join the National Healthy Start Association and its members in honoring the million babies worldwide who died this year because they were born too soon, and the 12 million more who struggle to survive.

We encourage you to wear purple today in honor of the babies that are born too soon and too small. Also, visit the World Prematurity page on Facebook and “LIKE IT. ” You  can read stories from around the world and share your own. Help spread the word by updating your Facebook status with a message on premature birth. Together we can raise awareness of this serious problem and help more babies start healthy lives. We fight to reduce prematurity because babies shouldn’t have to.

Remembering Maribeth Badura

On Monday, a year will have passed since we lost a champion for women and children, a trailblazer in the public health field and most importantly a dear friend. Maribeth Badura was often known as the “matriarch” of Healthy Start. Holding the position as the Director of the Division of Healthy Start under the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Maribeth was dedicated to her work of ensuring communities had resources and services that were easily accessible and affordable.

She was passionate about helping women be healthy throughout their lives. Most of all she was committed to ensuring babies reached not just their first birthday but all of their birthdays. Although Maribeth passed away last October, her memory continues to live on in each of us who had the fortunate experience to work alongside of her. It is largely because of her that we celebrate 20 years of the federal Healthy Start initiative this year. Through our work in communities across the United States, we strive to keep her legacy at the forefront of our minds and in our hearts.

We honor her today for everything she did on behalf of our most vulnerable women and children. NHSA encourages you to share your favorite Maribeth story or memory here on our blog.

You can also honor Maribeth’s memory by contributing to the Maribeth Badura Memorial Fund. This fund will enable the Association to grant scholarships to individuals interested in pursuing the field of nursing, public health or similar. Recipients will be selected from Healthy Start communities.

Checks can be made payable to: The Maribeth Badura Memorial Fund and mailed to the NHSA office at 1411 K Street, NW, Suite 1350, Washington, DC 20005. If you would like to make a contribution via credit card, please visit our website, click the DONATE button and indicate MB Fund.

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!

Text4Baby Launches Today: NHSA Announced as an Outreach Partner

Today was a great day in the world of maternal and child health! A historic day as well with the launch of Text4Baby, a free mobile health service for soon-to-be moms and new moms.

A partnership between the technology industry, government and the health community, Text4Baby is an educational program of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) that will  deliver timely health tips via text message to those who need it most.  Partners include the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Voxiva, CTIA-The Wireless Foundation, Grey Healthcare Group (a WPP company) and founding corporate sponsor Johnson & Johnson.  Premier sponsors include WellPoint, Pfizer and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and wireless carriers are distributing text messages at no charge to recipients.  Implementation partners include BabyCenter, Danya International, Syniverse Technologies, Keynote Systems and The George Washington University.

This is a great opportunity to not only showcase the success of public-private partnerships, but also demonstrate how utilizing technology can help mothers and pregnant women make informed decisions about their health and the healthy of their baby.  Text4Baby is going to be critical to the health of our country for so many reasons:

  • By using text messaging on cell phones, this partnership uses a technology that has already been widely adopted. Research shows that 90 percent of Americans have a mobile phone, and texting is more prevalent among women of childbearing age and minority populations who face higher infant mortality rates.
  • It provides the information moms need to keep themselves and their babies healthy. These are short messages, but incredibly important.  The messages focus on topics critical to the health of moms and babies, including immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, smoking and alcohol, oral health, and safe sleep.
  • It could help save lives and reduce the number of premature births in America. More than 500,000 babies – 1 in every 8 – are born prematurely each year in the US.  Premature babies can face lifelong health and intellectual development problems.  The risk of premature birth can be reduced if moms take care of themselves and their babies during pregnancy (e.g. don’t smoke!) and seek prenatal care.  Text4Baby can help by giving moms information and connecting them to care.
  • It could save America money on health care costs. This free service could save us money by ensuring moms are connected to health knowledge and services as early as possible.  Catching problems early can help avoid expensive and potentially harmful complications at birth and in the first year of life.  This helps families as well – the average first year medical costs for premature babies are about 10 times greater than for full-term babies.

The National Healthy Start Association is proud to be one of the many outreach partners for this Initiative including the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, March of Dimes, American Public Health Association, National Association of County and City Health Officials,  National WIC Association and Postpartum Support International.

We just ask that you spread the word about Text4Baby and encourage women you know to sign up on the website ( for free or text BABY to 511411!

Support Prematurity Awareness Month

As we close out the month of November, we still have two weeks remaining to promote awareness around reducing prematurity births. Every day, we see how premature birth affect babies and families. With more than half a million babies born prematurely in the United States each year, the problem is bigger than ever.

The National Healthy Start Association is proud to partner with the March of Dimes® to give all babies a fighting chance. On November 17, thousands of people participated in Prematurity Awareness Day® activities in their communities. The month and day were recognized across America and covered by local and national media. March of Dimes also released its second annual Premature Birth Report Cards and America received a “D.” As a country, we are failing to give our babies the healthy start they deserve.  We obviously have so much more work to do if we are going to help save the lives of our most vulnerable population — our babies.

The cards score the nation and each individual state on its rate of premature birth and give recommendations for improvement. The report cards also highlight three contributing factors of premature birth: the rate of women of childbearing age who are uninsured; the rate of women of childbearing age who smoke; and the rate of late preterm birth. Recommendations for improvement are given in each of these areas, for example, federal and state support of smoking cessation as part of maternity care.  Another key March of Dimes recommendation is for hospitals and health care professionals to voluntarily assess c-sections and inductions that occur prior to 39 weeks gestation to ensure consistency with professional guidelines. Check out your state report cards and get involved.

To participate in Prematurity Awareness Month, or to view the Premature Birth Report Cards, visit


Help us save our nation’s babies!

Premature Births Linked to Increase in U.S. Infant Mortality Rate

A new data brief was released this week by CDC, National Center for Health Statistics on how the U.S. is faring in premature births and infant mortality.  Sadly, the infant mortality rate has worsened since 2004. According to the report, premature births were the primary cause for the increase in infant mortality.

Here are the key findings from the report:

So what are the experts saying about why the United States may have more premature births?

  • Fertility treatments and other forms of assisted reproduction probably play a role because they often lead to twins, triplets or other multiple births. Those children tend to be delivered early.
  • The U.S. health care system doesn’t guarantees prenatal care to pregnant women, particularly the uninsured (Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, medical director for the March of Dimes).
  • Maternal obesity and smoking have been linked to premature births and may also be a factor.
  • Health officials are also concerned that doctors increasingly are inducing labor or performing C-sections before the 37th week. Dr. Fleischman also indicated in a  statement to the NY Times that most infant deaths do not occur in babies just shy of 37 weeks gestation, but rather in those much younger,

The report also found that while the United States more commonly saw premature births, survival rates for infants at that gestational age were as good or better than most European countries.

Below are  links to a variety of articles on this report:

Premature Births Worsen US Infant Death Rate

Premature Births Are Fueling Higher Rates of Infant M ortality in U.S., Report Says

Click HERE for access to the PDF report

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.

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:

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

Welcome to the NHSA Blog!

The National Healthy Start Association is venturing out into the world of social media and has launched a new blog, “Healthy from the Start”.  We are very excited about the potential conversations we will have through the blog. Topics and news stories will focus on the health of women and children but also on the overall health of families in this country.

NHSA is committed to reducing  infant mortality and health disparities, specifically in minority communities. Our plan is to update you on how we are achieving this goal and how you can play a role in ensuring there are healthy women, healthy children, and healthy communities. Through the blog, we will also share what Healthy Start Projects are doing in communities around the country to improve birth outcomes, reduce pre-term births, increase access to prenatal care, and eliminate domestic violence. There are 102 Healthy Start projects in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico that are on the frontlines in some of the poorest neighborhoods ensuring that women and children are healthy. The blog will help tell their stories.

We hope that you will visit this blog regularly to stay current on not just what Healthy Start is doing but also what our national partners and others are doing around the world to improve the health of women and children. From policy updates on home visitation to a story on reproductive health in Uganda, we will keep you informed on the happenings of women and children’s health globally. We will feature posts from our partners in the field of maternal and child health (MCH) and our friends in the community.

We are so thrilled about where this new avenue of communication will take us and that you will join us on this journey as we effect change for the health of women, children, and families. We know that with healthy families we will have healthy communities.