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Healthy Beginnings

by Dr. Stacy Howard, Florida Children’s Council – Did you know that every year Florida welcomes more than 215,000 newborns?  Florida ranks as the 4th most populous state in the country following California, Texas and New York.  Several of our 67 counties have larger populations than some of the states in our nation including Miami-Dade and Broward counties, both with 2 million or more residents.  In 6 of our 67 counties, 50% of all the births in the state take place ranging from 12,500 newborns a year to 30,500.  These statistics emphasize the importance of making sure that each pregnancy and birth is a healthy one given mothers and babies are not the only beneficiaries – everyone is impacted in some way.  Improving the well-being of mothers, babies, and children is an important public health goal not only for Florida, but our nation – their well-being determines the health of the next generation.

Research tells us that poor birth outcomes have large scale societal impact – emotionally, socially, and economically.  The costs to the family, child and society are exponential throughout a child’s lifetime and cannot be measured in dollar amounts. Unfortunately, each week 535 babies are born pre-term (before 37 weeks of gestation) and 356 are born low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds) – placing Florida’s newborns at higher risk than national averages.

                          Preterm           Low Birth Weight

Florida                 13%                           8.7%

US                          11%                            7.8%

Welcoming a baby can be an equally joyous and scary time.  For most babies, they are brought into this world healthy, but for far too many – they are born with conditions we know have long-term negative impacts on their health and development.  Understanding what it means for a baby to be born preterm and/or low birth weight is important given they are the strongest indicators of future health.   Preterm babies are at higher-risk for long-term and chronic lung problems, arterial hypertension and type 2 diabetes, while low birth weight is the #1 risk factor for death in the 1st year of life.

The Council is focused on supporting innovative programs, strategies and efforts targeted at improving the number of healthy pregnancies in Florida as well as the number of healthy babies born across the state.  Research confirms that prevention and early intervention strategies are key in achieving both including raising the awareness and knowledge of mothers, fathers, family members and support persons in the lives of babies.

For details and statistics, find our newly published fact sheet here.