• By Lydia Collins
  • Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Forsyth County Babies a Healthy Beginning

November 17 was World Prematurity Day and the entire month of November is used to bring awareness to this public health crisis. According to the March of Dimes, “Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide,” and like most of the causes of infant mortality, there is still a disparity between the premature birth rates of white and black babies. Even a baby who survives prematurity can be subject to health problems as result, often affecting the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. Addressing prematurity and its influence on infant health and mortality rates is something the Healthy Beginnings program here in Forsyth County takes seriously everyday.

Healthy Beginnings is a free case management program focusing on primarily African-American women of childbearing age and their families (including partner) living in Forsyth County. We provide the buffer of support that many families lack throughout pregnancy and during the first two years of their child’s life. Knowing that many of the risk factors for premature birth include: an interval of less than six months between pregnancies, smoking cigarettes, poor nutrition and low weight gain in pregnancy, stressful life events such as domestic violence, and lack of prenatal care, the grant funding our program has us focusing on these risk factors through education and linking mothers to resources in our community.

One Healthy Beginnings participant shared her experience with having a premature baby and how our program was able to help her: “It was scary, not knowing if she was going to be okay. She was so tiny, I was kind of afraid of her at first. Having you come out to the house and bring preemie pampers and just show up was really good though. I appreciate the visits and getting transportation to appointments and other things you provide.”

As Healthy Beginnings staff, our focus is not just on the numbers—although as our caseload, amount of home visits and hours worked with each participant increases, we do feel the pride in our mission. At the end of the day though, each baby born at 39 weeks or beyond at a healthy weight is what matters, and seeing them grow until they graduate our program at 2 years old is even more significant. As one mom put it, “Healthy Beginnings helps me not feel as alone. I don’t have family here other than my mom, but you calling and coming to the house reminds me someone is there.” It’s our goal to continue providing this material and emotional support to the mothers we serve, so every baby born in Forsyth County gets the healthy beginning they deserve.

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