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In The News

Opinion: Better Health for Atlanta Moms, Babies

By G. Kim Sumpter

As printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution 4.22.2015

Preparing to be a new mom wasn’t supposed to be like this. Recently divorced, Lily moved to be closer to friends, but she couldn’t find a place of her own. Lily was pregnant and couldn’t get stable work. The stress of having to relocate and find a safe, comfortable home plus employment placed Lily at risk of having a low birth weight baby — a newborn weighing less than 5.5 pounds.

Though Lily had just moved to Georgia, she was not alone. Thousands of moms-to-be have low birth weight babies, and many of these babies do not make it to their first birthdays. Seventy percent of infants who die in their first year of life were born low birth weight.

Georgia’s low birth weight rate is one of the worst nationwide and runs 10.6 percent in greater Atlanta, according to the 2015 County Health Rankings released last month. That broader view of health has helped guide United Way of Greater Atlanta in its commitment to ensure more babies are born at healthy weights. The effort, Babies Born Healthy, is expected to save $30 million in health care costs over three years. More than saving money, the network helps families avoid the heartache that often comes with a low birth weight infant. We do this through our MOMS Program, which employs trained home visitors to support and educate moms-to-be in the comfort of their homes. This help is provided for up to two years after a newborn joins the family. Plus, the program supports new parents as they create and achieve financial goals.

MOMS home visitors befriended Lily. They assessed the safety of her home and taught prenatal care and parenting skills. Most importantly, Lily’s caseworker helped her land a job where she could use her nursing skills and find a place to live. Her home visitor continues to meet with her each month, and will do so for nearly two years after the birth of her healthy baby. Lily says the difference in her stress level is “like night and day.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta is improving lives by increasing the caring power — not charity — of our local communities to advance the common good. Thanks to the County Health Rankings, we have a road map to guide decisions about improving health in metro Atlanta.

We work to engage and bring together people and resources to drive sustainable improvements in the well-being of children, families and individuals. Our Babies Born Healthy Network works with local, state-based and national organizations to find solutions to reduce the number of low birth weight babies and improve the health of the region’s mothers and their families.

G. Kim Sumpter is director of Babies Born Healthy Network of the United Way of Greater Atlanta.