Every Baby Deserves A First Birthday

May 26, 2016 Issues: Health Care

Washington, DC – For every 1,000 live births, nearly six babies will not survive their first year of life. With the goal of ending these tragedies, Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-OH), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) today introduced the Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2016.

This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the Healthy Start for Infants Program for Fiscal Years 2017 through 2022.  Healthy Start was created in 1991 to support the efforts of local health departments, universities, and community-based organizations working to improve birth outcomes through the early delivery of services to women and families in communities with high rates of infant mortality and other complications. The long-term medical and social services associated with low birthweight infants and children born premature cost taxpayers $26.2 billion per year, with first-year expenses for the smallest surviving babies averaging $273,900. These exorbitant health care costs are borne not only by families, but also by businesses. Employers pay 12 times more for babies born with complications than they do for those born without.

“I’ve long fought for Healthy Start funding to help reduce the infant mortality rate and give newborns and their parents the tools they need to lead healthy lives. I’m proud to support this effort to reauthorize this life changing program and will continue to work with my colleagues to press for its enactment," said Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY).

“In the United States, it should go without saying that every baby lives to see his or her first birthday,” said Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Healthy Start has been at the forefront of the fight to save our smallest citizens for 25 years.  I am proud to introduce legislation that preserves and builds on the success of this time-tested program, and gives every child a fighting chance at a bright future.”

“The drug epidemic is ravaging many of our communities, and we know that babies exposed to drugs, alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy have a greater risk of stillbirth. Nothing is more tragic than the death of an infant, and we must pass commonsense measures to help mothers and babies alike. The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act will do just that, providing the tools needed to help prevent stillbirths. I applaud Rep. Tim Ryan for his leadership on this bipartisan bill – helping babies have a healthy start in life is a cause we can all support,” said Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-WV).

The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2016 has been endorsed by the National Healthy Start Association, March of Dimes, the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, First Focus Campaign for Children, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“From its inception, Healthy Start has been unique in its design and commitment to deliver culturally-responsive and inclusive systems of care with services adapted to the distinct needs of each community. Using evidence-based approaches, Healthy Start has consistently succeeded in bringing infant mortality rates in vulnerable communities below national rates. The National Healthy Start Association appreciates and applauds Representatives Ryan, Jenkins, and Yarmuth for recognizing this work and supporting the reauthorization of funding for this important community-based program. Saving the lives of babies is an investment in human life and in the economic life of the community,” said Deborah L. Frazier, CEO for the National Healthy Start Association.

“The Healthy Start for Infants program has helped reduce infant mortality by supporting community-based review systems, like the National Fetal Infant Mortality Review program (NFIMR), for over 25 years,” said Dr. Thomas Gellhaus, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  “The leading causes of infant mortality – preterm birth, birth defects, and sleep-related deaths – present real challenges to mothers, their families and their doctors. Infant mortality disproportionately affects communities of color and every state and U.S. territory has a racial disparity in infant mortality rates. It is vital that Healthy Start is reauthorized so programs like NFIMR can continue tackling these issues. ACOG thanks Representatives Ryan, Yarmuth, and Jenkins for taking the lead on this effort.”

“It’s unacceptable that the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “The Healthy Start program is a very important tool that improves the health and birth outcomes of pregnant women. We support Healthy Start because it allow communities to develop their own strategies and programs that meet the individual needs of their community. This program should be reauthorized and adequately funded to ensure it reaches the most vulnerable families and children.”

“I would like to thank Representatives Ryan, Yarmuth, and Jenkins for introducing this important bill to continue building on a record of success for Healthy Start.  State Title V maternal and child health programs are proud to work hand-in-hand with Healthy Start programs in order to achieve our shared goal of reducing infant mortality and improving birth outcomes, with a special eye toward addressing health disparities,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP).

“The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2016 and thanks Representatives Ryan, Jenkins, and Yarmuth for their leadership introducing the bill, which makes great strides to reduce the infant mortality rate in the United States,” said Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics. “Healthy Start programs have been working since 1991 to make sure that women living in communities with high infant mortality rates have access to early prenatal care and infant care, and we support this bill’s extension of Healthy Start for another five years.”

March of Dimes' support letter can be found here