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Contact: First Focus
Phone: 202-657-0670

Healthy Start Legislation Delivers Quality, Reliable Care to Newborns


First Focus applauds legislation that invests in healthy moms and newborns

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Richard Burr (R-NV) introduced legislation to provide low-income children with access to the prenatal and early infant care they need. The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2007 provides community-based grants to help our nation’s most disadvantaged children survive infancy and live longer, more productive lives. In addition, the legislation addresses critical health disparities facing minority communities.

“When children get the care they need, we all benefit. That begins with ensuring that pregnant women get proper care to deliver strong, healthy babies and that those newborns can depend on quality, reliable care to keep them healthy,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, who has sent a letter of support to Senators Brown and Burr. “Healthy Start also keeps working parents on the job and helps our health care system to avoid the high cost of hospital intensive care.”

While the United States’ infant mortality rate has improved over the past 40 years, it still ranks only 28th among industrialized nations. Further, in southern states, the infant mortality rate is climbing for the first time in decades. Healthy Start has been enormously successful in reducing the rates of infant mortality that are prevalent in the communities where it operates – most typically, communities with large minority populations, high rates of unemployment and poverty, and those with limited access to health care. There are nearly 100 Healthy Start projects currently operating in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. These projects have been tremendously successful at reducing infant mortality, reducing low birthweight, improving prenatal care, and reducing barriers to health care for pregnant women and newborns.

For example, low birth-weight babies that survive their first year incur medical bills averaging $93,800 per infant. Healthy start grants have helped to address some of the critical health disparities facing minority communities. For example, African American babies are 2.4 times more likely as white infants to die before their first birthday.

“The evidence is clear that the Healthy Start program not only improves outcomes for low-income pregnant women and infants, but also reduces federal expenditures associated with providing more expensive and frequent medical treatment that those who do not get proper prenatal and early infant care often require,” Lesley added. “ And because every Healthy Start site develops a consortium of neighborhood residents, parents, medical providers, social service agencies, faith representatives and business leaders, the whole community is engaged in helping children to survive and succeed,” Lesley added.