Posts Tagged ‘ infant health ’

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

 

 

 

 

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September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Barbara Lee Jackson is the Interim Executive Director at the National Healthy Start Association.

When I considered what I would write about in my blog today commemorating Infant Mortality Awareness Month, I thought I would start by clarifying my understanding of the word “awareness.”  I want to be sure I am expressing it correctly to inspire and demonstrate my own actions!

 Awareness is the “state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness”.  That’s a good start, but I’m going to focus on the word “aware” because that is really where we need to be. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary  (online), “aware” has Middle English origins, and expressed as iwar, or an older reference in Old English as gewær, from ge- (associative prefix) + wær wary — more at co-, wary.  Although an archaic form,  “wary” means being keenly “cautious, cunning, and watchful.”  That’s it! Being keenly “cunning” describes a person that is “knowledgeable or learned.”  So, if you are joining me in the Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign, my dear colleagues, are you “knowledgeable and learned” about infant mortality in the United States, what is it that you know and what can you do about it?  (Please note, I did not ask you if you WANT to be “knowledgeable or learned”; that’s another blog!)

 Well, here is a bit of information we should all know.  In a 2012 worldwide ranking by the CIA World Factbook — a report of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency — the U.S. infant mortality rate ranked 49th, ahead of Croatia at No. 50, while Monaco ranked No. 1, with an infant mortality rate of 1.80 per 1,000 live births. The United States infant mortality rate is 6.0 per 1000 live births, and if we are going to beat out Monaco and become No. 1, what is it that we need to do? 

First, we need to become aware and with many public health awareness campaigns, like breast cancer awareness for example, the information in the message is a deliberate effort to motivate individuals to take action. The kind of action we want you to take to address infant mortality in this country, involves understanding the issues, knowing what is going on in your community and/or state, and getting connected!  Joining other concerned individuals and/or organizations in partnership to find the solutions to the myriad of issues impacting pregnant women and their families that are at risk of having adverse birth outcomes is the kind of action needed to move the United States into the No. 1 spot!

Here are some ideas to take action!

  • Get connected and involved with a Healthy Start Project operating in your state!  If none exist in your area, check with your State Title V program, (Maternal and Child Health & Children with Special Health Care Needs) MCH/CSHCN.  It is the state agency funded by the federal government that support pregnant women, infants and children and ask them about the rates of infant morbidity and mortality in your state.  If the infant death rate is above1.8 per 1000 births in your community and/or state, ask the Title V officials what they are doing to work with pregnant women and their families to ensure healthy birth outcomes.
  • Take advantage of the resources provided by the National Healthy Start Association. We are ready to help!  Visit our website at www.nationalhealthystart.org and check out our Celebrate Day 366 Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign. You’ll find many resources on our  Raise Awareness page including an Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign Toolkit, Fact Sheet, web badge, and other promotional items.

Get in the know to take action in your community and/or state to impact our national standing, together we can make the United States No. 1!

Healthy Start & Text4baby: Honoring National Infant Mortality Awareness Month through a Shared Mission

Sarah Ingersoll is the Campaign Director for text4baby at the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

This September, the maternal and child health community comes together around National Infant Mortality Awareness Month. Sadly, health disparities in infant mortality rates linger in this country despite our best efforts to support and educate moms. The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and the text4baby program share the National Healthy Start Association’s mission to overcome these disparities. During September, we celebrate the progress we are making together to combat poor birth outcomes and infant mortality by connecting more moms to high-quality health and safety information through text4baby.

To the many Healthy Start sites already sharing text4baby with your clients, we say a heartfelt “thank you.” If you aren’t yet familiar with text4baby, we hope you will take time this month to join us in providing this tool to your clients. Text4baby reinforces the health information you already provide to clients, extending and strengthening your relationship with moms and families.

According to Barbara Lee Jackson, Interim Executive Director of the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA), “Encouraging pregnant women to maintain a pro-active attitude in their care using health information is a key service component offered at all Healthy Start project sites and NHSA believes that text4baby offers a unique health education opportunity.  Using text messaging that is direct, fast, and consistent, we are reinforcing healthy behaviors for Healthy Start clients enrolled in the text4baby program. ”

During September, text4baby offers an additional benefit to new text4baby users through our Fall Sign-Up Contest. We’ve created a special code for Healthy Start moms, allowing NHSA and local sites to track your impact on enrolling moms in your community. Moms who sign up for the service between September 1st and September 30th and enter the participant code “HS” when prompted during registration will be entered to win a year´s supply of Johnson´s Baby products.

To learn more about text4baby’s benefits for your Healthy Start community and for details about the contest visit www.nationalhealthystart.org.

National Birth Defects Prevention Month

Coleen Boyle, PhD, MS Hyg, is the director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  NCBDDD’s mission is to promote the health of babies, children and adults and enhance the potential for full, productive living.

Each year, we at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) join many organizations in recognizing January as National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Our state-based tracking system shows that birth defects affect one in 33 babies and are a leading cause of infant death in the United States.  More than 5,000 infants die each year because of birth defects. For me and my colleagues at NCBDDD, those numbers aren’t just numbers. They represent real babies and families and underscore our activities to promote the health of babies, children and adults and enhance the potential for full, productive living.

Every day, NCBDDD’s National Birth Defects Prevention Study teaches us about exposures or other factors during pregnancy that might raise or lower the risk of having a baby with a birth defect. Through this important work, we’ve learned that women who take certain medications, are obese, have uncontrolled diabetes, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol during pregnancy increase their risk of having a baby born with a birth defect. We are turning this science into action, but we cannot do this alone.

This month and throughout the year, we invite you to draw attention to the ways we know a woman can increase her chance of having a healthy baby—before she becomes pregnant: take folic acid; have regular medical checkups; make sure medical conditions, such as diabetes, are under control; talk to a health care provider about medication use; have tests for infectious diseases and get necessary vaccinations; and do not use cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs.  It’s important to remember that many birth defects happen very early during pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant, so planning a pregnancy is key and can help make a difference.

Like many of you, we are working toward a day when every child is born with the best health possible. We encourage you to use our birth defects prevention resources to help us do that: www.cdc.gov/birthdefects.

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

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?

What is the test of a good and strong society?

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

“I believe the test of a good and strong society is how we look after the most vulnerable, the most frail and the poorest.  That’s true in good times, but it’s even more true in difficult times.”

This quote from David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, immediately came to mind when I was asked why it is important to raise awareness about infant mortality.  Regardless of the economic climate or the state of the current fiscal mess in Washington, D.C., we have a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  At the top of the ‘most vulnerable list’ are disadvantaged mothers and babies who need basic health services and access to prevention programs.

The bad news is that the United States ranks a dismal 41st when compared to other industrialized nations’ infant mortality rate.  In the United States, African American infants are 2.4 times as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday.  These deaths are especially tragic because they are so preventable.

The good news is that we know what works at preventing infant mortality and making sure babies live to see their first birthday. Services such as outreach, home visitation, case management, health education, perinatal depression screening, interconceptional care and other approaches are all effective at improving birth outcomes. These types of community-based services will not only save lives, but also save billions of dollars in health care costs.

Caring for disadvantaged mothers and babies is certainly a test of whether our society is good and strong.  It’s a test that we can’t afford to fail.