Posts Tagged ‘ National Healthy Start ’

Turning Up the Volume On Infant Mortality: Every Baby Matters!

Lisa Matthews is the MomsFirst Project Director and Secretary for the NHSA Board of Directors.

Despite the allocation of substantial resources and the hard work of many dedicated public health workers and medical clinicians engaged in a wide variety of private and public efforts, Ohio’s infant mortality numbers have remained essentially stagnant for more than a decade.  Based on the urgent need to address Ohio’s infant death challenge in a new way, with new resolve and new levels of state and community-wide cooperation, on November 28, 2012 the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality held its first Infant Mortality Summit, titled Turning Up the Volume On Infant Mortality: Every Baby Matters! 

The summit featured nationally recognized plenary speakers in the fields of health, medicine, and community organization:  Ted Wymyslo, M.D. Director, Ohio Department of Health; Arthur James, M.D., Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology, The Ohio State University; Michael C. Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Administrator, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Mario Drummonds, M.S., L.C.S.W., M.B.A., CEO and Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Perinatal Project; and Magda Peck, Sc.D., Founding Dean and Professor, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The many breakout sessions, roundtable discussions, displays and posters sandwiched between and around plenary sessions represented a broad menu of topics geared largely to what works to improve the health of our moms and babies.  Both of Ohio’s Healthy Start Project, Caring For Two and MomsFirst, were invited to share their expertise on Effective Care Coordination Strategies, Preconception Planning including the importance of reproductive life planning, and Perinatal Depression.

Ohio’s Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality is a growing group made up of a wide variety of individuals and organizations across Ohio united with a single purpose:  to prevent infant mortality and disparities.  The collaborative includes some of Ohio’s most knowledgeable, experienced, and respected professionals in a variety of disciplines impacting maternal and infant health and representing many influential organizations addressing infant mortality by combining proven, universal best practices and knowledge with unique community-level solutions.

This summit was supported by the March of Dimes Ohio Chapter, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Ohio Section, the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Ohio Better Birth Outcomes, Columbus Public Health Caring for Two Program, and the Ohio Department of Health.

The Volume on Infant Mortality was turned up really loud in Ohio with the hopes of breaking out of the public health and clinical boundaries to effect change in the social determinants of health that so profoundly affect infant mortality.  Another Summit was promised to take place in two years to reflect on the progress Ohio makes to ensure more of its babies grow up to be healthy, productive citizens.

Video recordings of all plenary presentations and audio recordings of 11 of the breakout sessions from the November 28, 2012 Infant Mortality Summit are now online.  Accompanying PowerPoint slides are included.  Access these presentations on the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality Website at http://bit.ly/imsummitpresentations

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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.

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.

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.

Let’s make sure more babies blow out their 1st candle

Phyllis George, NHSA Senior Program Manager, answers the question, “Why do you feel it is important to raise awareness around infant mortality?”

I learned early in life how devastating the effects of infant mortality can have on families. My parents are from Sierra Leone in west Africa, and many aunts and cousins growing up never got a chance to celebrate the 1st birthdays of their children. Over the years, the number of maternal and infant deaths has decreased, but Sierra Leone still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Who would have thought that years later I would be working to help bring awareness to the issue in a nation where a woman does not have to walk for miles to receive prenatal care? It amazes me the wealth of resources that are available to people in the United States; yet we only rank 31st  in infant mortality rates among industrialized countries.

I believe that the main factor that contributes to the alarming infant mortality rates in the U.S. is lack of education and awareness about the issue. Other factors such as race and socio-economic status play a part, but many people, even those with a background in public health, are not aware of how to improve their chances of a successful pregnancy. I have yet to experience the privilege of being a mother, but if I wasn’t in the field of maternal and child health, would I know this information and ensure that my unborn child had the best start in life possible? Would I, after having my child, understand how to make sure that life flourishes beyond year one? I honestly do not know.

Health providers, community workers, churches, hair salons, friends, family members…these are the people that those who are most at risk of experiencing an infant death come in contact with on a regular basis. We all need to help in this fight and increase infant mortality awareness. Other countries should use us as an example and follow our lead on ensuring that the families in their communities are healthy. September is when we can begin to open up dialogue on this topic to families who do not know or congressmen who are not aware of the deplorable infant mortality rates in their cities, but let’s continue to spread the message throughout the year. Be the voice for the countless babies who did not live to blow out their first candle.

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!