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.

Health Reform and Healthy Start

Prevention and Public Health Fund — The health care reform law includes $500 million in fiscal year 2010 for a Prevention and Public Health Fund.  This funding must be spent on prevention and wellness programs authorized by the Public Health Service Act, such as Healthy Start.  NHSA is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use a portion of this funding to strengthen existing Healthy Start programs and to expand Healthy Start into areas that are eligible for funding but currently unfunded.  The Fund will continue to grow each year, eventually reaching $2 billion in fiscal year 2014 and each year thereafter.

Home Visiting — The new law also provides $100 million in fiscal year 2010 for states to implement evidence-based maternal, infant and early childhood home visitation programs.  Grantees are required to measure improvement in maternal and child health, childhood injury prevention, school readiness and achievement, crime or domestic violence, family economic self-sufficiency and coordination with community resources. The first step in this progress will be for states to complete a needs assessment to identify communities that have few quality home visitation program and are at risk for poor maternal and child health outcomes. NHSA encourages Healthy Start projects to contact their state MCH office and learn how the state is planning to conduct the needs assessment.

25 U.S. Senators and 25 Members of U.S. House Sign Letter in Support of Healthy Start

We are extremely pleased to report that 25 U.S. Senators and 25 Members of the U.S. House signed onto an appropriations letter in support of increased funding for Healthy Start.   The letter, delivered to the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate early last week, requests $120 million in funding for the Healthy Start program.  Healthy Start is currently funded at $105 million. A list of the 25 Senators and 25 House Members who signed the letter are found at the bottom of this message.

Last year, 19 Senators signed the Senate letter and 19 House Members signed the House version of the letter. The additional signatures this year are directly attributed to the time spent on Capitol Hill during the NHSA Spring Conference in March.  Conference participants, including Healthy Start project directors, staff and consumers, participated in literally hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill and encouraged federal lawmakers to sign the letter.

An email sent to NHSA earlier this week from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s staff stated, “We got a total of six more signatures on the Healthy Start letter this year.  Many of the Congressional offices mentioned how persuasive your advocates were in their Hill visits, so the credit should really go to them!”  Senator Stabenow of Michigan and Senator Bond of Missouri were the two Senators who organized and spearheaded the letter in the Senate and Representative John Spratt of South Carolina led the effort in the House.

This letter of support represents the very first step in the appropriations process, but it is an extremely important way to show the Appropriations Committees that Healthy Start has strong support and deserves to be strengthened and expanded.

If you see your Senator or Representative listed below, PLEASE take a moment and send their office a short note.

Senators:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
Sen. Tom Udall (New Mexico)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)
Sen. Russ Feingold (Wisconsin)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico)
Sen. Ron Wyden (Oregon)
Sen. Chris Dodd (Connecticut)
Sen. Richard Durbin (Illinois)
Sen. Chuck Schumer (New York)
Sen. John Kerry (Mass.)
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey)
Sen. Robert Menendez (New Jersey)
Sen. Roland Burris (Illinois)
Sen. Al Franken (Minnesota)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (Oregon)
Sen. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
Sen. Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia)
Sen. Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Sen. Barbra Miklulski (Maryland)
Sen. Carl Levin (Michigan)
Sen. Tim Johnson (South Dakota)
Sen. Ben Cardin (Maryland)
Sen. Kit Bond (Missouri)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow  (Michigan)

House Members:

Rep. John Spratt (South Carolina)
Rep. Raul Grijalva (Arizona)
Rep. Michael Capuano (Massachusetts)
Rep. Gene Greene (Texas)
Rep. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
Rep. Rush Holt (New Jersey)
Rep. Bobby Scott (Virginia)
Rep. Steve Kagen (Wisconsin)
Rep. Dennis Moore (Kansas)
Rep. John Yarmouth (Kentucky)
Rep. Steven Cohen (Tennessee)
Rep. George Butterfield (North Carolina)
Rep. Kathy Castor (Florida)
Rep. Jason Altmire (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Pete Stark (California)
Rep. Michael Burgess (Texas)
Rep. Stephen Lynch (Massachusetts)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Maryland)
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colorado)
Rep. Gregory Meeks (New York)
Rep. Danny Davis (Illinois)
Rep. Vern Ehlers (Michigan)
Rep. Bob Filner (California)
Rep. Andre Carson (Indiana)