Author Archive

Infant Mortality: A Call-to-Action for Partnership

Judy Meehan is the CEO for the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.

Health observances present an opportunity to draw attention to a cause.  Sadly, in the case of infant mortality, an annual observance also becomes an annual reminder of  statistics that seem insurmountable.  We know a lot about what can help mom have a safe and healthy pregnancy, and what helps babies get the healthiest possible start in life. Yet, we still need answers to critical research questions to guide our efforts as advocates, educators and care providers. As we wait for science that can lead us to the missing pieces of the infant mortality puzzle, we are also challenged by tough questions we ourselves can answer.

Why ARE we having difficulty moving the dial on infant mortality statistics?

Are we…

  • Engaging communities at risk (parents, providers and partners) in the development of health messages and promotional strategies?
  • Translating the science in a way that is actionable?
  • Maximizing proven strategies to communicate?
  • Making tools accessible to those who need them the most?
  • Delivering information in a format that is it culturally appropriate and accommodating of those with limited literacy skills?
  • Making it easy to enroll in critical programs that are under-utilized?
  • Leveraging the power of partnerships?

Until research reveals more about the causes and prevention of infant mortality, the last question on this list may be the most crucial to making a difference. Many at the local, state and national levels have taken a hard look at these questions and have answered them with quality programs.  We need to share success stories, learn from each other and make collaboration the new standard.  Our field represents an amazing army committed to a nation of healthier moms, babies and families.  As we wait for research and answers, there is no question that we will get farther by working together.

Infants Can’t Advocate

Dana Baker Kaplin, First Candle, answers the question, “Why is it important to raise awareness about infant mortality?”

Infants and children are unique members of our society in many ways. The most significant distinction, in my view, is that they make up the only segment of our population that is completely unable to advocate for themselves.

On the other hand, many adults face considerable challenges such as loss of a job, divorce, or managing a chronic illness during their lifetime. In these instances, they must take action or advocate for themselves to make change occur.  Those with the capacity to advocate for themselves or on behalf of a particular cause are capable of improving or overcoming challenges. Infants do not have this capacity.

I believe that it is not only important that we raise awareness about infant mortality–it is our responsibility as conscientious and caring members of society.  How do we do this? By educating parents and providers, conducting research that may improve birth outcomes, informing legislators about the significance of infant mortality and the need for funding, involvement in public health education or in other ways.

Having worked in the maternal and child health field for many years, I know at times “addressing infant mortality” can be overwhelming because of such high infant mortality rates and the vast racial disparities that exist.  However, this September, in honor of Infant Mortality Awareness Month it is crucial that we all commit to some action that will raise awareness about the urgent need at address infant mortality in our own communities and beyond.

We wouldn’t accept 41st place in the Olympics

Mike Fraser is the CEO of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs.

Infant mortality is one of the key indicators of a society’s health – and the US isn’t doing that great compared to our sister countries around the world. A recent WHO report found that the US ranks 41st in the world. 41st?  Aren’t we a country of #1s and gold medals?  Why do we accept 41st place among all nations on this critical measure of how well we care for women, children, and families? I think it is primarily because we haven’t made infant mortality as big of an issue as it really should be. Most Americans don’t know we rank 41st. Most Americans don’t know that compared to other countries, we have a long way to go in improving our rates. Would we accept 41st place in the Olympics? Heck no.  Why do we accept it for our children?

Raising infant mortality awareness is key to obtaining more support to address the problem. That is why September’s infant mortality awareness activities are so important. Raising the issue in policy circles is helpful, getting our friends and families talking to policy makers about this issue is even better. The more we can let our representatives know that we don’t want to be 41st anymore the more pressure they will feel to do something about it. There is a lot we can do to address infant mortality – we know what some of the major causes are, and we have a good toolkit of solutions, but resources to address this issue have been cut back, not increased. We also know that there is a great deal more states and their partners can do to help communities address this important problem. We all need to be part of the solution.  That’s why we are encouraging everyone to get active this month – and after – in raising awareness and bringing attention to this important MCH issue.

Learning to Count Dead Babies

Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, Director, Birthing Project USA: The Underground Railroad for New Life, answers, “Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness around infant mortality?”

DeAndre lived ten days, and in his birth, short life and death…he taught me that Infant Mortality Rate means “counting dead babies”.  During the last century, the US counted more dead babies than all the soldiers we lost in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. DeAndre also taught me that each life brings the gift of knowledge. If we pay attention, we can learn something. In his case, along with the reality of death, he taught me that even though he was another woman’s child…he was also my child and the child of every woman and man who have a sense of community and accountability to our ancestors and to our “yet to be born”.

As we remember the little ones who came and left us so quickly, I light a candle of remembrance that flickers with hope.  We do not have all the answers to keep them here as long as we would like but I believe that, as we raise awareness and take action by surrounding young parents with care, information, guidance and support, our babies have a better chance of being born as healthy as possible to parents who are prepared to love and care for them.

View our Pilgramadge  to BabyLand at Birthing Project USA You Tube Channel

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/BirthingProjectUSA

Saving Babies

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.

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)