The percentage of Palm Beach County babies born too early dropped from 2015 to 2016 – a drop seen across all racial and ethnic demographics.
Additionally, Palm Beach County’s percent was lower than the state in 2016, a sign that birth outcomes may be headed in the right direction locally.
But experts note that even 1,370 premature babies born in Palm Beach County in 2016 is too many, since the immediate and long-term health implications for infants, their families and the whole community are so significant.
To shine a light on the seriousness of the issue, Children’s Services Council’s board proclaimed November as Prematurity Awareness Month during this month’s meeting.
On average, medical costs for babies born before 37 weeks gestation are nearly $50,000 – 12 times more than that of a full-term baby. And babies born too early and too small are at risk for physical, developmental, cognitive and social-emotional complications for the rest of their lives.
From the onset, Children’s Services Council has focused on ensuring more babies are born healthy by funding programs that encourage mothers-to-be to get prenatal care early and consistently. The Council also helps women and families before and after their babies are born by providing pregnancy education, home-visiting programs, prenatal and postpartum counseling and other family support services.
“A healthy birth is the foundation for a healthy life,” says Lisa Williams-Taylor, CEO of Children’s Services Council. “It’s an essential element of a baby’s growth and development, as well as a child’s success in school. That’s why our first goal as an organization is that more babies are born healthy.”
With that goal in mind, the Council and the Healthy Start Coalition of Palm Beach County are developing a community action plan with key partners to reduce premature births in Florida to at least 8.1 percent by 2020 – a decrease of more than 18 percent from the 2014 level.
The March of Dimes is supporting local efforts to address prematurity with mini-grants to bolster a group prenatal program called Centering. The funding is helping the local program provide education, outreach and engagement of pregnant black women.
In other business
Hurricane Irma: Some families served by Council-funded programs were disproportionately impacted by the September hurricane, so the Council has allowed select programs to use under-expenditures to provide assistance. Families in need of diapers, formula and baby care items were helped by Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, HomeSafe and BRIDGES. Other funded programs provided families most in need with a gift card to purchase gas, food or other necessary items for their children. The Council authorized up to $209,025 in direct assistance to families in its programs.
Additionally, Council staff has taken a lead role in organizing local funders to establish Hurricane Irma Relief & Recovery Funding for local nonprofits affected by the storm. Eight funders have agreed to review applications for assistance and coordinate funding, as needed. To date, 41 nonprofits have submitted requests for funding and 29 have received a total of $350,000. The Council has committed $50,000 to The Palm Beach County Food Bank to replenish the food in the warehouse distributed to local pantries throughout the county before and after the storm. The Council also provided $5,000 to the Urban League of Palm Beach County to help repair the facility.
2018 Family Guide: A new version of the Council’s Family Guide is now available. Council staff have distributed 32,500 copies to about 110 locations throughout the county. The book features the Council’s new EveryParent campaign and is available in both English and Spanish.
Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County – a special-purpose government established by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014 – provides leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county's children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong. For more information, visit www.cscpbc.org or contact Shana Cooper, Public Information Officer, at 561.374.7570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.