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Health Fair and Plain-Language Booklets Help Pittsburgh Families Plan for Healthy Babies
PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Offering plain-language answers and reminders to help Pittsburgh mothers plan for healthy pregnancies, childbirth, and babies, three new booklets from AAAS and The Heinz Endowments were released Saturday during a free public health fair.
The booklets are one part of a larger strategy by The Heinz Endowments to support healthier families by working to reduce the rate of babies born too small as well as the number of infants who die before their first birthdays.
"We can increase the likelihood that women will have healthy babies if they receive adequate health-care, support, and information," said Carmen Anderson, program officer for Children, Youth & Families at The Endowments. "We believe that education is the key, and one goal is to get information directly into the hands of women themselves as well as caregivers."
The free public health fair took place 30 June at the Homewood Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 7101 Hamilton Avenue, from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
The trio of booklets—Having a Healthy Pregnancy; Having a Healthy Birth; and Having Healthy Babies—were released during the fair by AAAS , the world's largest general science society and publisher of the journal Science, in collaboration with The Endowments, which provided a $100,000 grant to support the project. In addition, information was provided during the event by The Birth Circle, Magee-Womens Hospital-UPMC, Planned Parenthood, The Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health, Tobacco Free Allegheny, the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, Healthy Start, the West Penn Allegheny Health System, and the Women's Center and Shelter, among others.
The new booklets are now freely available to expectant mothers through participating regional libraries, and during home visits by doulas—paraprofessionals who help to "mother the mothers," through a program of The Birth Circle. The materials also are accessible online.
Every year, 4 million women have babies. In 2004, for example, the March of Dimes reports, 144,748 babies were born in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, seven of every 1,000 newborns die within 12 months, and nearly 8 out of every 1,000 babies are born at a low birthweight. Overall in Pennsylvania, the picture is similar, but the infant mortality rate for African American babies, compared with white infants, is more than two times higher (15.7 percent, versus 5.8 percent in 2003), according to government statistics. Meanwhile, nearly one in every four Pittsburgh women (22.7 percent) reported being a daily cigarette smoker in 2000, when surveyed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Easy-to-read, portable booklets—including pages for writing questions or taking notes—have been designed to help women educate themselves while remaining fully engaged in their own care, said Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS.
"What ought to be a joyous time—looking forward to birth—can sometimes be a time of uncertainty for mothers," she noted. "A woman's doctor can of course provide answers, but the amount of time that she has with her doctor or midwife is necessarily limited. So, our goal was to provide a take-away that could serve as a form of continual reinforcement and support for pregnant women, and as a reminder of the questions that should be discussed with a doctor."
Local experts like Dr. Irene Frederick of the East Liberty Family Health Care Center and the UPMC Shadyside Family Practice, and Pamela Wilson, coordinator of the doula and ambassador program, were "absolutely critical to the success of the booklets," Malcom noted. AAAS staff, including Program Associate Kirstin Fearnley and Senior Project Director Maria Sosa, with writer Kristina Anderson of EasyRead Copywriting (TM), gathered information through informal focus groups and one-on-one interviews in Pittsburgh.
How many servings of meat or beans should a pregnant woman try to eat each day? Why should newborns be placed on their backs to sleep? Do most doctors recommend breast-feeding? If an expectant mother smokes, where can she go to try and get help to stop?
The AAAS booklets answer these and many other questions. For example, here's a short list of some of the most important pointers for all moms-to-be:
Take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and a prenatal vitamin every day.
Eat a healthy diet.
Talk to your health care provider about your medical history.
Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs.
Use condoms during sex.
Get regular check-ups from your doctor or dentist.
Exercise every day.
In sum, Dr. Frederick said: "Take good care of yourself and your baby while you're pregnant. That's as simple as it gets. Take care, and get care!" Women without insurance can find good-quality care at many locations throughout the city, she noted.
"Pittsburgh is a really nice city for expectant families," offering many choices of outstanding practitioners, whether a mother is looking for midwifery care, family practice care, or OB care, doula coordinator Pamela Wilson said. The new AAAS booklets "do a nice, gentle job of conveying basic information, and helping women to understand their options," she added.
So, what are the answers to the questions posed earlier in this release?
First, most pregnant women should have five servings of meat and/or beans per day; plus good carbohydrates such as whole grains (six servings), fruits (four servings), and vegetables (five servings); three cups of dairy for strong bones, teeth, and muscles; and six to eight glasses of water.
Second, babies should be put to sleep on their backs, on a firm mattress without pillows, fluffy blankets, or stuffed toys, to prevent the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Indeed, most doctors agree that breast milk is the healthiest food for your baby, according to AAAS.
Finally, expectant moms who want to quit smoking can contact the STOP program at Magee-Womens Hospital, UPMC, at (412) 551-8694, Dr. Frederick said.
2 July 2007