The first five years of a person’s life are the most formative. When a child is born too small (less than 5.5 pounds) or too early (before 37 weeks), they are at a much higher risk for short and long-term health challenges. This not only affects the family, but the entire community. All health care payers – public and private – share the cost of caring for premature babies. According to recent studies, the average medical costs for a preterm baby were more than 10x higher than for a healthy full-term baby. The average costs for a healthy baby from birth to his first birthday were $4,551. For a preterm baby, these costs were $49,033.
Studies are clear about what obstacles stand in the way of a healthy baby. The Healthy Start Program (in Spanish and English) target these risk factors during a woman’s pregnancy and in the child’s earliest years. An independent study of Healthy Start’s first 14 years (1996-2009) shows that babies born to Healthy Start moms in our target communities were healthier than babies of moms in the same communities who were not enrolled.
Investments in the health of young children result in a real financial return for communities, with fewer costs going to medical care and special education, lower school dropout rates, less crime, and a higher probability that caregivers will be self-sufficient and their kids will grow up to contribute to their community. It’s as important now as ever to invest in community-based interventions to improve public health and ensure that children have what they need start healthy.
Healthy Start contact: Alma Vidal, 610-344-5370 x 113, firstname.lastname@example.org