Low birth weight a concern here

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Low birth weight is one of factors in the low health ranking for Spalding County.

Molli Pruitt with the Spalding County Health Department said low birth weight is one of the metrics measured in the study. She said 14.4 percent of all babies born at Spalding Regional Hospital are less than 5.5 pounds and at least half of those are 3.3 pounds or less.

“Those born at a very low birth weight of 3.3 pounds or less go immediately to Columbus or Atlanta for care,” she said.

“It’s a big deal,” Pruitt said, “22 percent of African-American babies born here are low or very low birth weight. It’s really important to figure out why.”

Georgia she said, is ranked 48 out of 51 in child deaths from the ages of 0 to 1. “Georgia also has the highest maternal death rate,” she said, and “44th of 50 states in outcome of births.”

Pruitt spoke to the Educational Prosperity Initiative Thursday. Jewell Walker-Harps who chairs the EPI and is president of the local NAACP, said “there is a correlation between health and poverty. Now, for us, this is a concern.”

The goal, Pruitt said. is to help, to educate the parents, the mothers. Some of the factors Pruitt said, include low or high weight or body mass index for the mother, as well as smoking and substance abuse.

“We meet with teen moms each month at Griffin High, we offer Healthy Connections at WIC, and we try to educate men and women way before they are even planning to become pregnant, but she noted, “half of the pregnancies in Spalding County are unplanned.”

Pruitt said they provide information and materials for parents of children prenatal to age 5 on health and development. The goal is to educate, she said.

Another program she has is the Stewards of Children program, a sexual abuse prevention program. “The more we can do to protect our children,” Pruitt said, “we will see a decrease in addiction, drug use and unemployment.”

Shirley Gardner, a local pastor noted, “there are so many babies having babies. The problems are parents don’t understand the responsibilities. It’s an epidemic.”

Garnder asked, “what can we do to get them to understand they are not ready yet?”

Pruitt said 60 percent of teen parents have sexual trauma history. When the boundaries are violated, it is hard to understand when it’s time to say ‘help me.’”

She said, “We have to understand there is not some program coming to fix. It’s time to start fixing the situation, and getting them to want to get help, for the churches to say, ‘let me help you.’”

Gardner said, “a lot of time, it’s adults that don’t understand,” explaining the parents and grandparents had children as teens too. “That’s how it perpetuates,” she said.

The Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Families and Children, Spalding Regional Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and others are sponsoring the Healthy Children Conference & Expo, April 17, at the University of Georgia Griffin Campus, 1109 Experiment St., from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The conference is free to attend, Pruitt said, and lunch from Chick-fil-A will be provided to attendees.

The conference will include sessions on low birth weight and premature babies, infant development, family nutrition, literacy, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, pediatric health topics including asthma, immunizations and treatments for ADHD and other behavior disorders.

Pruitt emphasized the conference is free but registration is required. Walker-Harps encouraged everyone to pass the information on, “to make sure people who need to be there get there.”

For more information contact Molli Pruitt at 770-584-7592 or mdashmore@dhr.state.ga.us. Register online at http://fcn.gafcp.org/fcnetwork/spalding.

Read the story on griffindailynews.com.

Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.