Baltimore Healthy Start Program Nearly Eradicates Low Birthweight Among Infants

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Baltimore's Healthy Start program, which provides medical care and support for low-income pregnant women and their infants, recently reported that for two consecutive years, nearly none of the infants born to women enrolled in the program had very low birthweights, the Baltimore Sun reports.

According to the Sun, of the 800 women enrolled in the program in 2005, 0.7% gave birth to very low-birthweight infants weighing 3.3 pounds or less. In 2006, 0.9% of Healthy Start participants gave birth to very low-birthweight infants, a difference that is not statistically significant, the Sun reports. The low percentage of very low-birthweight infants in the program meets the surgeon general's Healthy People 2010 goal three years ahead of schedule, according to the Sun. Healthy People 2010 is a set of national health goals for the first decade of the century.

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The program, which receives some federal funding and has a $4 million annual budget, conducts neighborhood outreach programs to recruit low-income pregnant women, as well as women with infants. Women who enroll in the program receive medical care, household supplies, parenting instruction, mental health services, job training and drug addiction services. Maryland Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said the program "saves babies' lives and provides hope and opportunity to their families."

City health officials are working to open four new Healthy Start clinics, Alma Roberts, president and CEO of the program, said. Roberts added that the state government has said it will fund the new clinics if Baltimore can demonstrate a need for the services. In addition, program officials are working with experts to learn how environmental factors, such as crime, pollution and family, affect women and their pregnancies, the Sun reports (Anderson, Baltimore Sun, 9/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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