03.13.08

Senate Committee Approves Brown and Burr’s Healthy Start Legislation

Bill aims to reduce infant mortality

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions today approved the Healthy Start Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S.1760), which aims to reduce infant mortality in the United States. The legislation was introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) in July of last year. The Healthy Start program has been successful in addressing the risk factors that lead to low birth weight and other health complications in babies and mothers since the initiative began in 1991. The bipartisan legislation would extend the program through 2013.

"The Healthy Start Reauthorization Act is essential in helping our nation's most disadvantaged children survive infancy and live longer, healthier lives," Brown said "Healthy Start does more than just help pregnant women cope with pregnancy; it is there for women regardless of their financial or living situation. This bill advances the public health and promotes the common good."

"Healthy Start programs, like North Carolina's Baby Love Plus, have made great progress in reducing infant mortality, premature birth, and low birth weight," Burr said. "Healthy Start is a critical program that saves lives and ensures more of our nation's children stay healthy. I am pleased my Senate colleagues took a step today towards ensuring more of America's children start life in good health."

In 1998, only 42% of women in the Healthy Start program areas received prenatal care. In 2003, that number reached 72%. Although the Healthy Start program has been largely successful, much work remains to be done. North Carolina has the tenth highest infant mortality rate in the country; 8.35 out of every 1,000 babies born in the state will not live to be one year old, well above the national average of 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

The bill now awaits passage by the full Senate.