Maybe guns aren’t the biggest threat in Newtown.
Perhaps the biggest threat is the area’s staggering rates of poor birth outcomes, such as premature birth, fetal mortality, and infant mortality. Despite a statewide decrease in deaths among children younger than one year old, the infant mortality rate for African-Americans in Sarasota County has continued to creep upward. And disparities between rates of fetal mortality, infant mortality, and prematurity between blacks and whites continue to be alarmingly present. Sarasota County’s most recent 2008-2010 rolling average data indicates the African-American rates for fetal mortality is more than twice as high as whites; infant mortality is 3.5 times as high; and preterm birth is 1.7 times as high.
Aimed at reversing this alarming trend, the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County created the “Save My Life” Program in 2008, an education and support-based Childbirth and Parenting Education program centered in the Newtown area. The Save My Life Program offers small group and individual classes on the importance of health during childbearing years and during pregnancy, stress reduction, childbirth education, breastfeeding education, in-home support for breastfeeding, and safe sleep practices for infants. Outreach efforts, education, and classes are offered by the only African-American Childbirth Educator in Sarasota County, Beverly Phelps.
“Early intervention to begin reversing this cycle must begin prior to pregnancy, and continue throughout pregnancy and after pregnancy. The early experiences of any human, from the beginning of pregnancy into the first few years of life are crucial,” said Jennifer Highland, Executive Director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. “By focusing on education, support, and prevention, we aim to improve chances young families will stay healthy.”
Funding for this vital program comes from donations and grants, both of which are currently threatened. After 3 ½ successful years, this program will end in spring of 2012 without additional funding. However, the Healthy Start Coalition has been presented with a unique opportunity to continue funding this important program: an anonymous donor has come forward with a $10,000 Challenge. If $5,000 is raised by the community before February 15, the donor will match it with another $5,000.
“This is an important opportunity for our Community to get involved in the health of our youngest citizens”, continued Highland, “It is time for us to rally as a community to save our babies!”
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