Montgomery County’s premature birth rate of 11 percent earned a grade of “D,” according to the 2014 Premature Birth Report Card issued by the March of Dimes. That statistic has serious implications, as prematurity and low birth weight are linked to infant mortality.
Only five states have a higher rate of infant mortality than Ohio. Fourteen out of 1,000 African-American babies die before their first birthday, more than twice the rate of Caucasian babies, for whom the rate is also unacceptably high.
Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County is actively working in the community to lower the infant mortality rate and has made birth outcomes a priority. To support this effort, it is critical for women to remain tobacco-free during pregnancy and to ensure a tobacco-free home.
Public Health’s “Baby & Me — Tobacco Free” program offers smoking-cessation help to pregnant women so they can quit smoking, deliver a healthier baby and create a healthier home environment for the entire family. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the likelihood that children will have asthma, ear infections, respiratory issues and learning disabilities.
There are currently 68 expectant moms participating in the program, which is nearing its one-year anniversary in Montgomery County. Public Health is partnering with local health clinics so moms can combine a regular prenatal clinic visit with participation in the program. They receive four counseling sessions to help them stop smoking, and take a breath test at each visit to confirm they are tobacco-free.
After the baby is born, moms visit with the counselor each month for a year and every month she’s still tobacco-free, she receives a $25 diaper gift certificate. In addition, one adult household member who smokes can also participate and if they too are successful, the family is eligible for a second $25 diaper gift certificate.
But the benefits extend well beyond saving on the cost of diapers. Moms and babies will be healthier, and families will save money otherwise spent on cigarettes. Baby & Me is operating in 17 states, and research shows a 60 percent overall success rate. Baby & Me — Tobacco Free is research-based and proven to help pregnant women quit smoking and remain smoke-free throughout the postpartum period and beyond. In Montgomery County, it’s too soon to measure the program’s effectiveness, but Public Health counts every participant who quits smoking and every healthy baby as a success.
Expectant moms can easily get started by calling Brenda Alexander at (937) 496-3376. There’s no cost to participate, and if you’re ready to quit smoking for your baby, we are committed to provide the support you need. You can read more about the program on the Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County website at www.phdmc.org. While there, you can also read more about healthy start programs like Healthy Mommy/Healthy Baby.
Dec. 5 is the start of Ohio’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Week. This would be a great time to make the commitment to stop smoking, whether you’re an expectant mom, a soon-to-be dad, or simply a smoker who’s ready to be done with tobacco. Call us and let us direct you to the resources that can help.
Terra Williams is Director of Health Promotions, Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.