A program designed to increase healthy outcomes for newborn babies is coming to Lafayette and New Orleans.  The Healthy Babies Initiative screens pregnant women for tobacco use, alcohol use, drug use, domestic violence and depression and assists expectant mothers in getting treatment.

“This initiative focuses on critical issues that need to be addressed in order to pursue the vision that all children are born to lead healthy, productive lives,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine.  “The expansion of this program is an important step toward healthier outcomes for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

The program, also called SBIRT, operates through a system of Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment measures.  The women are screened within medical settings by a physician, nurse or clinician who identifies women at-risk for substance abuse or other related problems through a questionnaire process.  The system provides for brief intervention or brief treatment, and refers those identified as needing more extensive services to a specialist.

In 2004, the infant death rate in Louisiana was 10.4 per 1,000 babies.  This translates to 640 infants who die before their first birthday.  According to Dr. Rodney Wise, the maternity medical director for the state, many social factors can be attributed to these poor birth outcomes, including prenatal substance abuse.

“The New Orleans and Lafayette areas have several documented cases of women who need these services,” said Dr. Wise.  “Through the Healthy Babies Initiative, we hope to provide a missing link in the system of care for pregnant women.”

There are four of these programs already in operation among Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Monroe and the Northshore areas. 

When the program launches on May 28 in Lafayette there will be a kick-off event at 11:30 a.m. in the Daily Advertiser’s Community Room, located at 1100 Bertrand Dr., Lafayette, LA, 70506. 

Another launch will be held on May 29 at 2 p.m. at the New Orleans Council on Aging, locating at 2475 Canal St., New Orleans, LA, 70119.  

The keynote speaker at these events will be Dr. Ira J. Chasnoff, President of the Children’s Research Triangle in Chicago, IL and developer of the program’s screening methodology.  Dr. Chasnoff is one of the nation’s leading researchers in the field of child development and the effects of alcohol and drug use on the newborn infant and child.  He is the recipient of several national and international awards for his work with high-risk women, children and families.  Dr. Chasnoff has also been selected for several years by a poll of physicians across the nation for listing in “America’s Best Doctors.”

The Louisiana SBIRT – Healthy Babies Initiative is a partnership with the Office of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Health program, the Office for Addictive Disorders and the Office of Mental Health.  Other partners include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the March of Dimes, Fetal Infant Mortality Review and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living.