Author Archive

The Knowledge Path MCH Resource Library’s Latest Edition: Infant Mortality and Pregnancy Loss

The Georgetown University Maternal and Child Health Library has just released a new edition of the knowledge path. The knowledge path was made for health professionals, policymakers, researchers, and families as a guide for people to find resources on data analysis, research reports, and program descriptions around one MCH topic. The newest edition of the Knowledge Path is all about Infant Mortality and Pregnancy Loss. In this edition, readers can find resources to intervention strategies, attempts at lowering risk, bereavement support groups, and research on finding out the causes of infant mortality and pregnancy loss. Other sections feature resources on factors that contribute to infant mortality and pregnancy loss like birth defects, injuries, low birthweight and prematurity, and ways to lower the risk of infant mortality and pregnancy loss like preconception care, pregnancy and safe sleep environments.

To view the Knowledge Path online click http://www.mchlibrary.info/KnowledgePaths/kp_infmort.html.

A resource brief for families accompanies the Knowledge Path and is available at http://www.mchlibrary.info/families/frb_infmort.html.

The Maternal and Child Health Library provides access to current, accurate information from a full range of MCH topics. The library offers a variety of electronic resources including the MCH Alert, resource guides, databases, and other materials specifically developed for professionals and families. To view the library online, go to http://mchlibrary.info.

MCH Alert is a weekly electronic newsletter that offers the latest references to research, policy developments, recently released publications, new programs, and initiatives affecting the MCH community. To view and subscribe to MCH Alert, you can visit http://www.mchlibrary.info/alert/index.html.

NHSA Holds Congressional Briefing on Infant Mortality

On Thursday, September 23, 2010, the National Healthy Start Association held a briefing on Capitol Hill focused specifically on infant mortality. The event was titled, “Celebrate Day 366: Strategies to Reduce Infant Mortality and Ensure that Every Baby Has a Healthy Start.” Speakers at the event included NHSA Board Chair Lo Berry, NHSA Executive Director Stacy Cunningham, Congressman Steve Cohen, and representatives from the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of Minority Health. The second panel of speakers featured representatives from the March of Dimes, National Fatherhood Initiative and Healthy Mothers/Healthy Babies Coalition.

Over forty individuals attended the event, including Congressional staff, officials from federal agencies and representatives from other nonprofits that are committed to improved maternal and child health.  This is the first time that a briefing has been held in the U.S. Capitol specifically to discuss infant mortality and highlight successful strategies to ensure healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. NHSA is committed to playing a leadership role in highlighting the tragedy of infant mortality and educating elected leaders about the need to increase support to disadvantaged mothers, babies and families.

After Congressman Cohen provided opening remarks, Lo Berry provided an overview of Healthy Start and examples of how the Healthy Start program in Tampa, FL has succeeded in improving birth outcomes.  Stacey Cunningham highlighted the work of the National Healthy Start Association and served as moderator during the remainder of the briefing. The event concluded with a personal story offered by the Cooper family of Baltimore Healthy Start.

NHSA wishes to thank all who participated in yesterday’s successful briefing. To paraphrase the Deputy Director of the Office of Minority Health, Mirtha Beadle, the briefing was not the beginning nor end of this important work, but it was an important step in the process of eliminating racial health disparities!

NHSA Kicks off National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Yesterday marked the first day of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month in the U.S. To commemorate the month, the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) has launched its campaign, Celebrate Day 366…Every Baby Deserves a Chance to promote national awareness around this very critical issue.

Infant mortality refers to the number of infant deaths before the age of one and Celebrate Day 366 is a campaign to increase the public’s awareness about the issue. The campaign is an example of NHSA’s commitment to increasing the number of babies who will live beyond their first birthday. The organization is dedicated to ensuring that the nation’s most vulnerable women and families are receiving high quality services and resources for healthy pregnancies and healthy births. Infant Mortality Awareness Month is a key time to also raise public awareness about the one million babies who die each year because they are born prematurely.

Toward the end of the month, NHSA will host a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss priorities for action in the public and private sectors that address reducing infant mortality rates and strategies to ensure that every baby has a healthy start. NHSA will inform policymakers, staffers, and the general public about the pressing need for community-based programs to reduce infant mortality, low birth-weight, and racial disparities in perinatal outcomes. Invited to provide remarks at the Congressional Briefing are U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN); Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, Garth Graham, M.D.; Executive Director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, Judy Meehan; and President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, Roland Warren.

Throughout September, we will use the blog to share information, resources, and activities related to infant mortality and prematurity.You’ll also see a calendar of activities on the NHSA Celebrate Day 366 web page, as well as campaign resources and an updated Toolkit.

Join NHSA this month in its efforts to increase awareness and spread the word about infant mortality. Collectively, we can help save the lives of millions of babies in this country. Help us make sure every baby reaches their first birthday!

NHSA White Paper

Today, NHSA released its white paper — Federal Healthy Start Initiative: A National Network for Effective Home Visitation and Family Support Services. This document is in response to the historic legislation, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is designed to strengthen and approve home visiting programs, improve service coordination for at-risk communities, and identify and provide comprehensive evidence-based home visiting services to families that reside in at-risk communities.  The white paper showcases the strengths and competencies of the federal Healthy Start Initiative, making certain that funders, legislators and other potential supporters know that Healthy Start represent a “shovel ready” network that can offer an array of core services provided through evidence-based and promising home visitation practices.

The recent health reform legislation and the federal Healthy Start Initiative are aligned as both a strategy and response for the delivery of key provisions for addressing the health and health care needs of women and families.  Federal Healthy Start represents a network with 20 years of experience and cultural authenticity to assist in serving underserved and marginalized communities throughout our nation.  The 104 federal Healthy Start sites around the U.S. are well-positioned to play a crucial role in the national effort to build quality, comprehensive, state-wide early childhood systems for pregnant women, parents, caregivers, and children from birth to eight years of age and, ultimately, to improve health outcomes.

You can visit this link to obtain full access to the PDF version of the paper – http://healthystartassoc.org/NHSA_WhitePaper.pdf

Health Reform for Women’s Health

On Tuesday, June 24, 2010, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, spoke to the National Partnership for Women and Families about how the Affordable Care Act will not only benefit women and provide for their full range of health needs, but also break barriers as “the best women’s health bill since Medicare.” Secretary Sebelius noted particular provisions that will impact women’s health, including the ban on supplemental charges for women’s health services; the law that all new insurance plans must cover essential health benefits like newborn care and maternity care; and the elimination of co-pays for key preventive services like pap smears and mammograms. To read Secretary Sebelius’ comments, please visit http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/about/speeches/sp20100624.html
(U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services Daily Digest Bulletin; June 25, 2010)

U.S. Surgeon General Promotes Breastfeeding!

This week, I spent two days at the Second Annual Summit on Breastfeeding hosted by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Summit was here in Washington, DC, and the theme was,  First Food: The Essential Role of Breastfeeding. The meeting was packed with information and presentations focusing on a range of topics that included leadership and legislation from federal agencies, breastfeeding community initiatives and community-based approaches, involvement of companies, roles and responsibilities of health professionals,  and regulation.  I learned a great deal over these last two days on breastfeeding and where we are in this country with initiation, as well as duration rates in the communities we serve.  However, what sticks with me the most, are the remarks at yesterday’s luncheon, from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. I feel compelled to share some of the points that Dr. Benjamin shared with the group, as she talked about the importance of breastfeeding and how we can work together to improve rates in the U.S.

  • Breastfeeding is a top priority in the Surgeon General’s office and it will continue to be a measure within Healthy People 2020.
  • Despite improvements, socioeconomic, racial and geographic disparities still exist.
  • Women in the southeastern part of the U.S. have breastfeeding numbers that are lower than any other part of the country. This is also the case for the rural communities in the U.S. compared to urban communities.
  • Black infants are breastfed 50% less than white infants. “We really need to figure out ways to improve this rate.”
  • We need to teach moms, grandmoms and dads about breastfeeding to increase the support among women.
  • There needs to be safe and private areas in the workplace for women to breastfeed and/or pump, as well as cooling areas to store the breastmilk.
  • Ongoing research and data — the science — is needed to validate what we are all saying about breastfeeding.
  • “I want to move us (U.S.) to a system of wellness and prevention, and breastfeeding is included in this.”

These are all things we should keep in mind as we work to improve the health and well being of children. I also had the pleasure of speaking with the Surgeon General about how the NHSA and Healthy Start programs can work with her office to enhance breastfeeding education and increase breastfeeding rates among African-American infants and rural communities. It is our plan to continue this conversation with Dr. Benjamin’s office in the very near future.

Happy Friday and continue to give children a healthy start!

~Stacey D. Cunningham, MSW, MPH, Executive Director, National Healthy Start Association

Home Visitation Funding

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released the first of three announcements for the new federal home visitation program. The announcement contains additional details related to the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program that was created by the Affordable Care Act.

$90 million will be provided to all states and territories to improve health and development outcomes for at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs.  The funds are intended to assure effective coordination and delivery of critical health, development, early learning, child abuse and neglect prevention, and family support services to children and families through home visiting programs.

The announcement indicates that HHS will soon publish proposed evidence-related criteria for public comment through the Federal Register.  Those criteria will be based on an exhaustive study of research evidence related to home visiting programs and will provide a user-friendly source of information for States about different models and the evidence of effectiveness associated with them.

Each State must apply for funding by July 9.  The State Needs Assessment is due by September 1.  The assessment must identify at-risk communities in the state and the quality and capacity of existing home visiting programs.

The complete announcement can be found here.


Presidential Proclamation–National Women’s Health Week

On May 7, 2009, President Obama issued a Proclamation declaring May 9-15, 2010 as National Women’s Health Week, stating:

The health of American women and girls is not just a women’s issue; all Americans have a vested interest.  Women are the foundation of many families, and by encouraging their wellness, we also promote the vitality of our children and our communities.  By standing firm in our commitment to improve women’s health, we can give our daughters and granddaughters    and all Americans    a brighter future.

National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH). National Women’s Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. With the theme “It’s Your Time,” the nationwide initiative encourages women to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life. During National Women’s Health Week, communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups work together to educate women about steps they can take to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases.

Find National Women’s Health Week activities in your area.

Find out more by visiting http://www.womenshealth.gov/whw/.

Funding Available for Promise Neighborhoods

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the availability of the planning grant application for Promise Neighborhoods, a new program designed to significantly improve the educational, health and developmental outcomes of children in distressed communities. Because the challenges faced by communities with high concentrations of poverty are interrelated, the Department of Education will be looking for proposals that take a comprehensive approach designed to ensure that children have access to a continuum of cradle-through-college-to-career solutions, with strong schools at the center, that will support academic achievement, healthy development, and college and career success.

Additional information can be found here.

The Department will be hosting a series of webinars designed to provide technical assistance for organizations that are interested in applying for funding. Nonprofit organizations and Institutions of Higher Education (colleges and universities) are eligible to apply for funding.

–Jon Terry, President, Capitol Youth Strategies LLC

National Infant Immunization Week

April 24 to May 1 is National Infant Immunization Week. The Centers for Disease Control has a website page devoted to the promotion of this week, as well as useful information on events and activities.

Outstanding progress has been made in immunization rates for children younger than two years old. Immunization coverage rates in the United States for vaccines routinely recommended for infants and young children remain at or near record highs. For example, rates for measles, rubella, and three doses of Hib and Hep B are greater than 90 percent. However, there is still much work to be done.

Over one million children in the United States are not adequately immunized and each day nearly 12,000 children are born and each in need of protection from diseases. Thousands of lives are in jeopardy from vaccine-preventable diseases, and hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on the care of disease stricken children whose illnesses could have been avoided. National and community organizations and health departments can play an important role in ensuring that all our children are appropriately immunized by the age of two. Healthcare providers need to actively communicate with parents and caregivers about immunization, especially when improvements in vaccines result in changes to the immunization schedule.

Parents and caregivers need to know that their children can and will be protected against many childhood diseases. During National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) and Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA), efforts are made in hundreds of communities around the United States and throughout the Western Hemisphere to increase awareness of the importance of immunization and to achieve immunization goals.

Learn more on the CDC’s website for National Infant Immunization Week.