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Texas launches new campaign to reduce infant deaths

Friday, November 16, 2012 - 2:58pm

The Texas Department of State Health Services has launched its Someday Starts Now campaign aimed at reducing the number of infant deaths and preterm births by promoting healthy lifestyles for people who may someday decide to have a baby.

The new campaign offers resources geared toward expectant parents and women who may one day want to have a baby. A key component is the website SomedayStartsNow.com, which has a downloadable life planning tool to help women set health goals and work toward them. Parents-to-be can create a birth plan by using a guide on the site that helps them think through decisions about the birth process. The campaign also includes interactive outreach events at college campuses and community gatherings, videos and resources for providers, and information tailored toward new dads and dads-to-be.

“We want people to be thinking about their health now, years before they may want to start a family,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “Living a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy can be critical to the health of the baby.”

Someday Starts Now is part of the state’s Healthy Texas Babies initiative that focuses on reducing prematurity and decreasing the number of babies who die during their first year of life. The Texas Legislature provided $4.1 million for the initiative during the last legislative session. Local coalitions are using some of those funds to reduce the factors that play a role in unhealthy birth outcomes. These factors include poor pre-pregnancy health, lack of prenatal care, cigarette smoking and poor nutrition during pregnancy, and electing to induce delivery before 39 weeks.

“We want to have healthier Texas babies and a healthier Texas, but the numbers show we have room for improvement,” Dr. Lakey said.

Texas has experienced a slight increase in the percentage of preterm babies, from a low of 12.6 percent in 2000 to 13.2 percent in 2010. The Texas rate is higher than the national rate of 12 percent for 2010. Babies born too early are often too small and underdeveloped to thrive or survive. Infants with low birth weights are at a greater risk for adverse health outcomes, including death.

The infant mortality rate has remained relatively constant in the United States and in Texas. In the United States in 2010 there were 6.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate was similar in Texas, with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births that year. African-Americans carry a disproportionate burden of poor birth outcomes in Texas.

To help improve birth outcomes, the SomedayStartsNow.com website offers information and tips to help people make healthy lifestyle choices in the years before starting a family, including:

Manage stress.

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