Program to give babies Healthy Start

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 13, 1999

FERRIDAY,&160;La. – For every 2,000 babies born in Concordia Parish in 1995, 25 did not make it to their first birthday.

For that year, the last for which figures are available, the parish tied with Natchitoches Parish for the highest infant mortality rate in central Louisiana. The reason? Many expectant mothers in Concordia Parish seek prenatal medical care too late or not at all.

&uot;Many believe it’s not necessary,&uot;&160;said Kris Santa Ann, coordinator for Healthy Start Concordia. &uot;They’ll say, ‘My mother didn’t visit the doctor, and we all turned out OK.’ They don’t realize how important it is. And that’s scary.&uot;

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That is where Healthy Start Concordia will come in. The program will be an effort of the publicly-funded Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center in Alexandria and a consortium of 45 local people concerned about the problem of infant mortality.

They will work together in the next several months to come up with ways to get the word out publicizing steps mothers can take to keep their babies healthy, both before and after birth.

&uot;But we won’t just stop after a few months … and say ‘We’ve saved enough babies,’&uot; said Santa Ana, who will hire a person in Concordia Parish to help run the program. &uot;We want this to be an ongoing effort.&uot;

Vernon Stevens, administrator of Riverland Medical Center in Ferriday and member of the Healthy Start Consortium, can vouch for the need to educate expectant mothers.

For one thing, the hospital, which serves several rural parishes in central and northeast Louisiana, sees several births to mothers in their early teens each year. In addition to young mothers, Riverland also sees mothers who have not sought previous medical care.

&uot;Some women come in to give birth having never seen a doctor until then,&uot;&160;Stevens said. &uot;Others think that since they’ve had a baby before, they already know what to do and don’t need to see a doctor.&uot;

Dr. Mary Susan K. Henderson, a member of the consortium, sees many expectant mothers in her practice as an OB-GYN in Ferriday.

&uot;With this program, we’re talking about the ones I don’t see,&uot;&160;she said. &uot;We want to determine why they don’t get medical care early and encourage them to do so. We’re hoping to make a difference, and that’s what I&160;went into medicine for.&uot;

In the next few weeks, Santa Ana hopes to survey 100 women of child-bearing age in Concordia Parish to ask them questions about issues related to infant mortality.

Next, Santa Ana hopes to produce and distribute a public service announcement to be aired throughout the area. And she will begin speaking to community groups about the things mothers can do to keep their babies healthy.