Posts Tagged ‘ awareness ’

Prenatal Genetic Testing

Hi all! My name is Katherine Brown and I am the summer intern here NHSA. I have an interest in the genetic field, specifically with the prenatal aspect and advocating for prenatal screening/testing, which all relate to what we promote and advocate here at NHSA.Katherine headshot2

Most of the projects being implemented at NHSA revolve around building educational skills to be healthy before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and in between pregnancies. These interventions are vital considering the U.S. statistics on infant mortality rates are nothing to brag about. In fact, according to Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report, every year twice the numbers of babies die on their first day alive than all 27 European Union nation combined. And get this: 1 million more babies are born there compared to the U.S! This is why NHSA supports the Federal Healthy Start Initiative and developed Celebrate day 366…Every Baby Deserves a Chance, and why prenatal screenings/testing need to be promoted to increase the chance of celebrating Day 366!

Genomic medicine has grown tremendously within the last couples of years. Prenatal testing can detect your baby’s health and growth before it is even born. Prenatal testing also tests how the mother is during throughout pregnancy. It is a win-win situation for both! We now have tests, mentioned in the March of Dimes article posted below, that can tell early within your pregnancy (within the first trimester) if your child may have any genetic conditions like Down syndrome, heart defects, birth defects, or cystic fibrosis. It is extremely important to continue prenatal testing throughout the pregnancy to understand how you and the baby are growing. For example sometimes mothers will acquire gestational diabetes during second trimester and prenatal screening can detect that. During your third trimester most screenings will test for group B strep that a mother can acquire and then pass down to her baby. It is also important to know your own family history of disease or what your specific ethnicity may be more prone to, i.e. cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, before planning to have a child. Make a list of all cancers, genetic disorders, mental illnesses, etc. shown to have affected your family tree and take it to a genetic counselor that will take time to talk with you and discuss options for conceiving the healthiest child possible.

The importance of having all of these factors detected before giving birth is that prevention or treatment can start immediately which means a longer and better quality of life for your child.

If you would like more information on genetic counseling or prenatal testing, please check out the links below.

  1. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/prenatal-tests.aspx

 

  1. http://www.genome.gov/Pages/Health/PatientsPublicInfo/GeneticTestingWhatItMeansForYourHealth.pdf

 

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/prenataltesting.html

 

 

 

 

We Did What We Set Out To Do

As the month closes, I am proud to say that we accomplished our goal — to increase awareness around infant mortality. We tried new communication vehicles like Twitter to get the word out, we spotlighted guest bloggers to tell us how they felt about the issue, and we created new materials to help others spread the message. Our commitment this year was to do more than what we did last year and the year before to educate the public about an issue that effects each and every one of us. Someone said yesterday that it doesn’t matter if you have children or not, infant mortality has an impact on all of us. It is very true. You may have a friend, family member, or colleague who has experienced the loss of their baby. You share in their pain, you grieve for their loss. In the end, it has affected you. I know I said it at the beginning of the month, but I will say it again – the health of a nation is often determined by their infant mortality rate. When babies die, our communities suffer, as does the country. When babies die, the mental health and well-being of a family can be severely impacted. When babies die, we lose the potential for greatness in a child who could be the next mathematician, doctor, community organizer or engineer. That is why the work we all did this month must not stop here.

Yes, September will be gone tomorrow, but infant mortality awareness is a year-round issue. I urge you to continue your efforts over the next 11 months and be even more vigilant in your fight to reduce infant deaths. When the next “awareness” month rolls around, National Infant Mortality Awareness Month will be a thing of the past until 2012. But we know how critically important it is that we keep this as an issue of today and every day. Our commitment to families must remain steadfast 365 days a year so that EVERY baby gets to reach day 366!

~Stacey Cunningham, Executive Director, NHSA

Senate Passes NIMAM Resolution

On Friday, September 23, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution highlighting September as National Infant Mortality Awareness Month.  Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland was the lead sponsor of the resolution and Senator Burr of North Carolina and Senator Menendez of New Jersey served as cosponsors of the resolution.

Beginning in 2007, the National Healthy Start Association has asked a Member of Congress to introduce the resolution each September as a way to educate the public and Congressional leaders about infant mortality. The resolution expresses support for the goals of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and calls upon the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs and activities.

A copy of the resolution can be found here: http://1.usa.gov/oMDlrV.

Jon Terry is the President of Capitol Youth Strategies and the NHSA Government Relations Consultant.

Infant Mortality and Inequality

Larry Adelman is co-director of California Newsreel  and the creator and executive producer of Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? and RACE-The Power of an Illusion.  “When the Bough Breaks”, the episode from Unnatural Causes exploring African American infant mortality, can be screened on-line for free during the month at www.newsreel.org.

I still remember when first researching our documentary series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?  being steered to the work of two neonatologists from Chicago, Drs. James Collins and Richard David.

It’s well-known that African Americans have infant mortality rates more than twice as high as white Americans.  Collins and David wanted to know why.  According to the CDC, complications due to low-birth weight are the leading cause of African American infant deaths. In one study, Collins and David compared the birth weights of newborns of three different groups:  white Americans, African Americans and African immigrants born in the U.S.

They discovered that while African American babies are born, on average, about half a pound smaller than white Americans, babies born here to African immigrants are about the same weight as white American babies.

In a subsequent study, Collins and David found that just one generation later, the daughters of those very same African immigrants were giving birth to lower birth-weight babies.

What changed in a generation? Not genes; genes don’t change in a generation. But kids born to African immigrants grow up here as African Americans, their bodies subject for decades to the cumulative stressors of racism experienced by other African Americans (many studies show that large racial gaps in birth outcomes remain even after controlling for pre-natal care, education, nutrition and other factors).

Our earlier documentary series, RACE – The Power of an Illusion , tried to help viewers negotiate a two-step:  the idea of ‘race’ as innate biological difference between population groups makes little scientific sense, yet race as lived experience is very real – and can even have biological consequences.

And among the most enraging as well as heart-rending of those consequences is high infant mortality.  Why enraging?  Because it doesn’t have to be this way.

Nancy Krieger and colleagues found that in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty both racial and class infant mortality gaps narrowed between 1966 and 1980. But progress ceased as the Reagan presidency initiated a 30-year binge of rollbacks of social programs, tax cuts for the rich and corporate deregulation which helped spawn unprecedented growth in inequality.

Health tracks wealth as well as race. On average, the wealthier you are, the healthier. And our growing inequality is taking a toll on white American babies as well.  I just took a look at the infant mortality tables at CIA’s World Fact Book. By my calculation, if white Americans were a separate nation, their infant mortality rate of 5.6 / 1000 would rank them about 33rd in the world (even lower if small entities like Guernsey and Andorra are included).

There are many exciting initiatives tackling infant mortality one city, one county at a time. They are each important. But if we want to make a lasting difference, if we want to give all our children the opportunity for a healthy start, shouldn’t we also be reversing those policies which have increasingly channeled the nation’s wealth, power and resources into the hands of what FDR used to call the plutocrats and the financial elite?

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.

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!