Saving Our Smallest: Congressman Tim Ryan Reintroduces the Healthy Start Reauthorization Act

Sep 26, 2017

Washington, DC – For every 1,000 live births in the United States, six infants will not live to see their first birthday. Today, Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) reintroduced the Healthy Start Reauthorization Act with the goal of ending these tragedies and the community health disparities that contribute to them.

This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the Healthy Start for Infants Program through 2023. Since 1991, Healthy Start has served communities with high rates of infant death, prematurity, and other complications by supporting the efforts of local community health partners to provide early delivery of services to mothers and families. The long-term medical and social services associated with premature and low-birthweight babies cost American taxpayers $26.2 billion per year, with first-year expenses for the smallest surviving infants averaging $273,900. These exorbitant health care costs are borne not only by families, but also by our nation’s businesses. Employers pay 12 times more, or $12 billion annually, in billed health insurance costs for babies born with complications than for those born without.

“In the most advanced nation on earth, it should go without saying that every mother has a safe pregnancy and every baby is born healthy. Yet in my District, an African-American baby born in Youngstown is more likely to die before age one than an baby born in Iran. That is unacceptable,” said Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Healthy Start has been on the frontline of the fight to save our youngest citizens for more than 25 years. As we mark the end of Infant Mortality Awareness Month, I am proud to once again introduce legislation that preserves and builds upon the success of this program at a time when the need in our communities is so great.”

“The drug epidemic continues to ravage 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 and protect the most innocent victims of the drug crisis. 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).

“Healthy Start has been absolutely vital in our efforts to lower the infant mortality rate and give newborns and their parents access to pre- and postnatal care. I’ve fought to preserve and protect this funding each Congress and I’m proud to join my colleagues in continuing that critical effort today. This life-changing program deserves our full support and I’ll continue to work to see to it that this initiative is protected,” said Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2017 has been endorsed by the National Healthy Start Association, March of Dimes, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), and the First Focus Campaign for Children:

“For 26 years, Healthy Start has worked with community residents, local partners, and local systems of care to deliver a culturally-responsive and inclusive range of 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 and advancing the work of Healthy Start and for supporting the funding reauthorization for this important community-based program. Saving the lives of our babies is the best investment we can make in our communities,” said Deborah L. Frazier, CEO of the National Healthy Start Association.   

“The Healthy Start program is leading the nation in developing effective strategies to reduce infant mortality in some of our most vulnerable communities,” stated March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart.  “As one of the original champions for its creation, the March of Dimes is proud that Healthy Start is showing us the way to reduce health disparities and promote equity so that every baby has a fighting chance.  The March of Dimes commends Representatives Ryan, Jenkins and Yarmuth for their dedication to guaranteeing a healthy beginning for all infants.”

“Women and babies of color are disproportionately impacted by the high maternal and infant mortality rates in this country,” said Dr. Haywood Brown, President of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  “Every state and U.S. territory faces challenges regarding racial health disparities, particularly when it comes to maternal and infant mortality rates. That is why it is vital that Healthy Start is reauthorized so programs like the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) can continue tackling these issues. ACOG thanks Representatives Ryan, Yarmuth, and Jenkins for taking the lead on this effort.”

“Healthy Start programs live up to their name – they work to ensure children have a healthy start from the very beginning of life by providing women with access to the early prenatal and infant care they need. The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2017 allows for continued, much-needed efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate in our country, particularly where disparities remain among minority and low-income populations. Healthy Start programs help to ensure a child’s ability to thrive is not determined by her ZIP code or family’s financial status. The American Academy of Pediatrics thanks Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) for introducing this important legislation, and urges Congress to advance the bill without delay,” said AAP President Fernando Stein, MD, FAAP.

“I applaud Representatives Ryan, Jenkins, and Yarmuth for introducing this important bill to continue building on Healthy Start’s record of success. State Title V maternal and child health programs are proud to contribute to that success, working in tandem with Healthy Start programs around the country toward 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 infant mortality rate in our nation remains unacceptably high, particularly for African-American women and families.  In addition, far too many babies are born premature or with low birth weight and other conditions that negatively impact their health and future success. For over 25 years, Healthy Start has been an effective tool to help improve the health and well-being of pregnant women and children in high quality programs tailored to their unique needs.  We support Healthy Start’s reauthorization and urge Congress to fully fund this important program so that it can continue to improve the early health and well-being of children and families,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children.

Read the full bill text here