An innovative new program in New York City is offering nurses special training to offer support and guidance to low-income, first-time moms who may be uneducated on how to give their babies–and themselves–the crucial care that can keep them healthy and thriving. The New York Times reports:
“The program, which was started in upstate New York in the 1970s and has been adopted in 42 states, is one of the rare public initiatives that have shown consistent and rigorously tested benefits for the mothers and children, as well as significant savings for taxpayers.
In different studies on different demographic groups, women in the program have had fewer premature deliveries, smoked less during pregnancy, spent less time on public assistance, waited longer to have subsequent children, had fewer arrests and convictions, and maintained longer contact with their baby’s fathers. Their children have had fewer language delays and reported less abuse and neglect, slightly higher I.Q. scores, fewer arrests and convictions by age 19, and less depression and anxiety.
A 2011 study of New York City’s Nurse-Family Partnership program, which currently has 91 nurses serving 1,940 families, projected that by the time a child in the program turns 12, the city, state and federal governments will have saved a combined $27,895, with additional savings thereafter — more than twice the program’s cost per child. The study was conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation using data from the Nurse-Family Partnership’s research at three locations, then extrapolated to New York.
This fall, I attended a dozen home visits, all in the Bronx, with five nurses — three from the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, which contracts with the city to provide service in the Bronx, and two, including Ms. Schmidt, with the health department’s Targeted Citywide Initiative, which tackles the most at-risk cases. The nurses’ styles and backgrounds varied; the families’ needs and challenges even more so. Each mother participated voluntarily and at no cost.
The problems were many: violence on the street, abuse in the women’s past, illness, anger, obesity, insecure housing or financial circumstances. Most of the women had the poor luck to have been born in poverty. Like their middle-class counterparts, none came into the world knowing how to raise a baby.”
A new national “movement” called “Too Small to Fail” launched Wednesday, pledging to use the power of media and advertising to raise awareness of the growing needs of children in a nation that is, organizers say, too focused on the big problems of the economy and not focused enough on the consequences of that economy for its smallest citizens. More than 16 million kids now live at or below the poverty line, the highest number of children in poverty in 50 years.
The campaign was created by the nonprofit organization The Center for the Next Generation, and it is hoping to call attention to a number of financial and health-related problems facing American kids, including:
More than one-quarter of our children have chronic health conditions such as obesity and asthma, a doubling since 1991;
American students – even those from educated families – are lagging far behind international competitors in math, science, and reading, and risk losing their edge in the highly competitive global marketplace;
More than half of students from middle-income families who score highest on their 8th grade reading and math tests don’t complete college, undermining their social mobility and future income security;
Two-thirds of students completing college or other post-secondary education or training are burdened with heavy debt, limiting their ability to build middle-class lives.
The campaign will urge government, business, and community organizations alike to take steps to help families live more financially and emotionally stable lives. Parents magazine and Parents.com are among the many media partners participating in the campaign, and an initial ad is set to air during cable television programs that depict children in danger.
The childhood obesity epidemic may be slowing, more and more data shows, even though an estimated 1 in 6 American children is obese. But obesity among children living in low-income families is not following the trend, research shows. CNN.com has more:
Federal surveys of predominantly low-income children have not found the same declines among 2- to 5-year-olds seen in more comprehensive national surveys, for instance.
“Certainly, the burden of the obesity epidemic is carried by kids in low-income communities,” says Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.
A new study appearing in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics offers the latest evidence that less affluent children are faring worse when it comes to obesity. The study, which included a diverse group of nearly 37,000 Massachusetts children under age six, found that between 2004 and 2008 the obesity rate fell by 1.6 and 2.6 percentage points among boys and girls, respectively.
As the researchers expected, however, the falloff was more pronounced among children with non-Medicaid health insurance than among those on Medicaid, the government-funded health plan for low-income families.
“Unfortunately there seems to be some socioeconomic disparity in this decline,” says lead researcher Xiaozhong Wen, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, in Boston.
A young woman living in poverty in northern Afghanistan has given birth to sextuplets, Reuters reports:
Sara Gul, 22, from the northern Balkh province, said on Tuesday she tried to abort after learning she was pregnant with the brood of six, highlighting the country’s poverty and ignorance surrounding birth control.
“I even jumped from a wall but nothing happened to them,” Gul told Reuters in provincial capital Mazar-e-Sharif, where she gave birth — her first — late Monday.
Maternity ward doctor Abdul Rauf Ferogh confirmed the birth, saying five of the babies were healthy, while the last one was underweight and still in postnatal care.
Rare in nature, multiple births are often the result of medical fertility treatment, although the method does not exist in Afghanistan. Afghans take pride in having large families, but war, conflict and destitution means one in four children die before reaching the age of five.
As many as 15 percent of parents who struggle to make ends meet add water to their babies’ formula, using “formula stretching” to get more out of their infant food purchases, a new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics has found.
The study followed Cincinnati families who qualify for federal food assistance and free formula through a program called WIC. MSNBC.com reports that the assistance isn’t enough for many families:
Even though the majority of parents were receiving help through foods stamps and WIC, many did not have enough food to feed their families. In fact, some 65 percent of families ran out of WIC-supplied infant formula most months. And the result, in many cases, was that parents diluted or cut back on formula for their infants.
This kind of formula stretching may have consequences for the infants, Beck said.
“There will be a subset of children who will have what is called ‘failure to thrive,’” Beck explained. “More often, though, the ramifications of this tend to be less visible — problems with cognition and behavior. In some it may lead to obesity later in life.”
While some might point to breast feeding as a solution, not every mom is in the position to do this for her child. In some jobs it’s virtually impossible to express milk during the day when a mom is away from her baby.
“Clearly, we encourage and actively support breastfeeding,” Beck said. “The reality is that a relatively low percentage of our patients breastfeed by the time they reach us. If they do, we continue to encourage it and have a breastfeeding clinic if they need it. Although they likely wouldn’t require formula, we need to do education and a nutritional assessment for mom. Also, as the first year progresses, even fewer families continue to nurse.”