NEW ORLEANS, LA- The City of New Orleans Health Department is encouraging families to sign up for the Healthy Start New Orleans program. Healthy Start focuses on families who have had a premature or low birth weight baby or infant death in the last year in the Greater New Orleans area. The program looks to link mothers and fathers to health care and supportive services that will help them have healthier babies and stronger families.
Healthy Start addresses multiple issues, including: Providing adequate prenatal care; Promoting positive prenatal health behaviors; Meeting basic health needs (nutrition, housing, psychosocial support); Reducing barriers to access by linking needs with resources; and Enabling client empowerment through engagement and information.
“Reducing the number of babies who are born at a low birth weight in our community has been something we’ve been addressing since this Administration took office and it remains a long term commitment,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo. “We can only succeed in this fight by investing in multiple factors like working with systems of care, quality providers and putting out effective health messages.”
Babies that are born too small or too soon are at risk for long term health and developmental challenges. Healthy Start, a program of the City of New Orleans Health Department, is actively reaching out to mothers across the city where there are higher than average numbers of low birth weight babies including Hollygrove, Behrman, Plum Orhcard, Read West, and the Seventh Ward. Healthy Start has been meeting with neighborhood leaders and going door to door to get the word out about the program.
Louisiana ranks 49th out of 50th among all states for high rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, and premature births. Here in New Orleans, recent data from the Louisiana Office of Public Health shows that the previously mentioned neighborhoods have high rates of babies who are born too small, weighing less than five pounds eight ounces at birth.
Babies who are born too small or too early are at risk for a host of short term and lifelong health and developmental problems including respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, heart problems, intestinal problems, vision loss, or death within the first year of life as babies and increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease as adults. In addition, babies who are born at low birth weight or premature may have problems with brain development that can impact cognition, attention, and motor skills and can in turn impact school readiness, high school dropout rates, and delinquent behavior as teenagers and adults.
In 1991, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded 15 urban and rural sites in communities with infant mortality rates that were 1.5 - 2.5 times the national average to begin the Healthy Start Initiative. The program began with a five-year demonstration phase to identify and develop community-based systems approaches to reducing infant mortality by 50% over the five-year period and to improve the health and well-being of women, infants, children and their families.
To sign up for services, families can contact Healthy Start at (504) 658-2600.