Date: Thursday, Feb. 27, 1997
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: HRSA Press Office(301)443-3376
HHS Launches Nationwide Toll-Free Federal/State Information and Referral Service for Prenatal Care
Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala today announced a national toll-free telephone line linked to information and referral services in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to help pregnant women obtain proper prenatal information and care.
By calling 1-800-311-BABY (2229) from anywhere in the United States, pregnant women will be routed automatically to their state maternal and child health hotline or to one of the Healthy Start prenatal care hotlines at 22 sites nationwide. Callers will receive pregnancy and prenatal care information, and in most cases, referral to nearby clinics, health care providers and organizations.
Secretary Shalala announced the new information line, as well as public service announcements publicizing the new service, at a Primary Care Conference held in Washington, D.C. today.
For Spanish-speaking callers, a separate phone number operated by the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations is available: 1-800-504-7081.
"Every pregnant woman and every newborn baby in America should have the benefit of early medical care and advice," said Secretary Shalala. "Expectant parents--no matter what their income or where they live in the United States--can learn about the basic information and local resources they need for healthy pregnancies."
The U.S. infant mortality rate, which is the rate that babies die before their first birthday, is at an historic low of less than eight deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995--6 percent lower than 1994 and 18 percent lower than 1990. There has also been a 30 percent decline in the death rate from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the U.S. between 1992 and 1995.
"Despite these gains in prenatal care and infant health, infant mortality and low birth weight remain a significant problem in the U.S.," Shalala said.
- Twenty percent of U.S. women fail to get prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy, the most crucial time in the development of a fetus.
- Approximately 16 percent of women continue to smoke while they are pregnant.
- Nearly 19 percent of women drink alcohol while they are pregnant.
- An estimated 5.5 percent of women have used an illegal drug at least once during their pregnancy.
The new service is supported by the Healthy Start program in HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration. "We want parents throughout the nation to know there is a toll-free number to connect them to solid, helpful information," said HRSA Administrator Ciro V. Sumaya, M.D., M.P.H.T.M. "This is a collaborative federal/state effort to reach out to expectant mothers and fathers all across America and to help them give their babies a healthy start in life."
A nationwide public service advertising campaign developed in cooperation with the Advertising Council, "Don't Put Your Baby's Health on the Line," will inform parents about the new toll-free information service. The campaign includes television, print and billboard advertisements aimed at getting women into early prenatal care.
The television ads featuring a pregnant woman perilously balanced on a tightrope include spots targeted to African-Americans, Spanish-speaking Hispanics, English-speaking Hispanics and Asians.
The national campaign is aimed at reducing infant mortality and low birth weight, and is based on the success of the Healthy Start demonstration program, which began offering services in 1991. Under Healthy Start, coordinated community resources and outreach to pregnant women were increased to make prenatal care more easily available.
Mote: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.hhs.gov.