Posts Tagged ‘ baby health ’

A Healthy Back-to-school

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The Children's Health Fund's mobile medical clinic.

The Children’s Health Fund’s mobile medical clinic.

Keeping track of my kids’ medical and dental appointments–making them, taking the kids to them, filing away the records–sometimes stresses me out. But I’ll never complain again after my visit to the big blue bus run by the Children’s Health Fund, which is devoted to providing health care for kids who don’t have access to it. This mobile medical center was parked on the sidewalk in the South Bronx on a blistering hot day last month, and Parents editors Diane Debrovner, Kara Corridan, and I stopped by.

I’d first learned about the clinic on wheels as we were preparing this story for Parents about how important good medical care is to a child’s school success. Inside the cheerful yellow-accented RV is a state-of-the-art two-room medical clinic, complete with a triage area and a nurse’s station. In 25 areas across the U.S., including New Orleans, Detroit and Washington, DC, facilities like these provide check ups, vaccinations, and treatment for a range of conditions to kids who have no other access to medical care.

“Our screening starts with ‘do you have enough food? Do you have a place to sleep tonight?’” says Delaney Gracy, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer for CHF. If families need either, CHF connects them with social services. Many of the sites where the buses stop are linked with schools, so that care providers can work with school nurses or administrators to help make sure kids get asthma medication, for example. The clinics use a state-of-the-art electronic health records system to store information about their patients, not because it’s the latest high-end healthcare fad, but because it makes it possible to track the care of children who are homeless.

The nurse's station inside the bus.

The nurse’s station inside the bus.

This care helps ensure that kids arrive at school healthy and ready to learn, which is a key focus of the Children’s Health Fund. The connection between health and learning goes deep: Vision or hearing problems, poor nutrition, chronic conditions and even lack of sleep can make it difficult for kids to succeed in school and contribute to a cascade of future problems.

If you want to help the CHF make sure more kids get the care they need, visit to add your voice to the “Every Child a Chance” campaign on the site. And if all this is making you realize your own kids are probably overdue for a back-to-school exam, brush up on the vaccine recommendations for every age and read our advice on how to make the most of your child’s checkup here.

Kids who visit the bus get a book to take home.

Kids who visit the bus get a book to take home, a special touch for children who have few possessions.

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When Your Baby Is Diagnosed With A Birth Defect

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Lelja, Nick, and ZainLast month I received a message from a reader, Christina Schmitts, whose grandson had been born with a birth defect known as gastroschisis. I had never heard of the condition, but the fact that he’d spent nearly 9 weeks in the NICU meant it was something serious. It made me wonder not only about gastroschisis, but about how many other babies are born in the U.S. each year only to struggle with major complications during their first weeks of life.

In the case of Zain Schmitts, his parents found out during a 3-D ultrasound when his mother was 15 weeks pregnant that he had gastroschisis, which causes intestines and other abdominal organs to grow outside the developing body. “We thought it only affected his small intestines and his stomach, but when he was born it was actually his gall bladder, and his appendix, and his small and large intestine that were all outside,” says his mother, Lejla Handanovic.

More and more babies in the U.S. are born each year with gastroschisis. In fact, between 1995 and 2005, the number of cases nearly doubled. “During the time I was pregnant, there were nine other women at the same hospital that were being monitored for the same issue,” said Lejla. Doctors and researchers are working to discover the cause for this drastic jump, but so far they’ve come up short.

“Every four and a half minutes a baby is born in the U.S. with a birth defect,” says Beverly Robertson, the national director of the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center at the March of Dimes in Mamaroneck, New York. This translates to about 1 in every 33 babies. Of course, these conditions range in severity. The most common defects occur in the heart, but cleft lip/cleft palate, Down syndrome, and spina bifida follow closely behind.

The causes of about 70 percent of birth defects are unknown. Some, like fetal alcohol syndrome, are 100 percent preventable. “If you don’t drink alcohol, your baby will not have fetal alcohol syndrome,” says Robertson.

Thank to an increased knowledge of the human genome, doctors and researchers are also able to have a better sense of which birth defects exist. And with the advent of 3-D ultrasounds, we can see more than a beating heart in utero and it’s easier than ever to catch potential problems.


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