Last night at the National Aquarium, as the sun was setting over the Inner Harbor, I joined our B’more for Healthy Babies partners in celebrating Baltimore’s infants and remembering the babies who died before their first birthday. We also unveiled the second phase of our campaign aimed at improving the health of pregnant women. The first leg of this multi-pronged approach will focus on tobacco use, helping pregnant women quit smoking and reducing their exposure to second-hand smoke.
Medical research here is clear: Cigarette smoke is associated with higher rates of Sudden Infant Death. Babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to be born underweight and premature, two of the leading risk factors for infant mortality.
We want to ensure that pregnant women do not smoke and that pregnant moms and babies live smoke-free in all environments, including in the home, in the car, and everywhere in our communities. This phase is a natural extension of our previous message: Every baby should sleep Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib, and in a tobacco free environment. Our message has also been adopted by the State in its efforts to reduce sleep-related deaths. Recently we expanded the messaging to include fathers, who play a critical role in protecting their babies from unsafe sleep conditions.
As I have mentioned here before, Baltimore’s infant mortality rate declined in 2010. Safe Sleep deaths in particular saw a marked decrease. We are cautiously optimistic the systems and policy changes we’ve supported through B’more for Healthy Babies are having an impact.
One way we are attacking this problem is by improving the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that increase women’s risk of poor birth and infant health outcomes. Through community-based activities and mass media messages, we are promoting a safe sleep environment for infants and educating residents on the use of tobacco and exposure to second-hand smoke, particularly among pregnant women, women who have recently given birth and infants.
I hope the message is delivered loud and clear: Baltimore is determined to do everything it can to reduce – and eliminate – infant deaths. In our new advertising campaign, we are asking people to commit to “Just Hold Off” from smoking if they are around pregnant women and infants. Starting this week, our new ads will be displayed on buses, in bus stops and subway stations, and on billboards all over town.
Hold off at home. Hold off in the car or at the bus stop. This simple act of courtesy, repeated a hundred or thousand times over, can have a huge impact on preventing sudden infant death.
We all share a responsibility to protect our city’s pregnant women and infants. As the B’more for Healthy Baby tag line states, “Every baby counts on you.” Today I hope you’ll ask yourself: What can I do to help the next generation of Baltimore babies be born healthy, to a healthy mother in a healthy environment?
Remember, just hold off, and take care, B’more.