November is Prematurity Awareness Month

November 21, 2013

The community can help ensure babies make it to their first birthday


November is Prematurity Awareness Month. United Way of Greater Milwaukee is encouraging the community to get involved to help reduce the infant mortality rate, particularly in minority communities. As part of its health strategy, United Way has made reducing infant mortality a priority by establishing the Healthy Birth Initiative: Reducing Infant Mortality.
Through this initiative, United Way is committed to helping reach the communitywide goal to reduce Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate by 10 percent through:
• Raising awareness about the issue by revealing how racial and ethnic birth outcome disparities affect all sectors of society,
• Identifying and funding evidence-based programs that will impact the root causes and result in positive birth outcomes, and
• Measuring the collective impact of funded programs.
In addition to being the 7th worst city for infant mortality among the 53 largest cities in the United States, according to the 2007 Big Cities Health Inventory, Milwaukee also has the highest gap in blackto-white infant deaths. In 2009, there were 122 infant deaths in the City of Milwaukee. Many of these deaths were preventable. The story of Adriana is one of success.
Adriana was expecting her first child and was in her first trimester when she separated from her husband. Suddenly she was not only dealing with the stress of becoming a first-time mother, but she was about to be a single mother.
“I was a little depressed, and felt so alone,” recalls Adriana.
But she was soon referred to the United Way-funded Centering Pregnancy program at Sixteenth Street Community Health Center and her fears began to subside. Moms who participate in the group prenatal care program learn ways to cope with stress and develop a support network of other pregnant women.
“Adriana was quiet and withdrawn when she first came to the program, but as she began taking classes, her self-confidence increased,” says program coordinator Laura Vargas.
Adriana agrees: “Coming to this class released a lot of that anxiety. I got to know a lot of people who were experiencing the same things as me. I learned a lot about what to expect.”
Group prenatal care has proven effective in improving birth outcomes, especially incidence of preterm labor and delivery – the leading cause of infant mortality.

In 2011, United Way of Greater Milwaukee made reducing infant mortality a priority, and is committed to raising awareness about the issue.
As part of the Centering Pregnancy program, expectant mothers are taught about
nutrition, fetal growth and development, mental health, family and parenting, labor, baby care, postpartum care, infant growth and development and returning to work or school. They take their own blood pressure and weight and record the information in a personal notebook. “This allows them to take ownership of the information and feel accountable and responsible for making healthy choices during their pregnancy,” Laura explains.
“Each year of your child’s life is a different experience, and we encourage and facilitate continued group contact for parents even after their baby arrives,” Laura says.
Adriana knows she will have the skills to care for her new daughter, Alexandra, in future years, as she continues to attend group sessions. And now she is even mentoring other new moms.
“The first thing I tell them is to go to class. Keep your appointments, and don’t go to just one,” Adriana explains. “They offer so many different classes – there’s so much you learn and the help you get is incredible.”
Learn more about United Way’s Healthy Birth Initiative at