Each November, we pause to bring awareness to Prematurity Awareness Month, sponsored by the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. It is an opportunity to increase awareness on the important steps needed to ensure women have healthy babies and, in turn, increasing the likelihood of healthier children later in life.

The Boston Public Health Commission’s Health Baby/Health Child program is a year-round partner in this effort – working in Boston’s communities to decrease infant mortality rates and increase positive birth outcomes and family unity through home visitation. Connecting with expectant mothers and families  with children under 5 years old, nurses, social workers, case managers and public health advocates help families foster  healthy children, highlighting parenting and school readiness, and incorporating familial strength exercises, all within a family’s own language and culture.

Based on the needs of a family, our Healthy Baby/Healthy Child staff can refer moms to programs such the newly launched Welcome Family program. This universal newborn home visitation program, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, centers on a home visit which is free, confidential, and voluntary. The goal of the program is to improve infant wellness by supporting parent’s knowledge of and access to needed services and support.

While many factors enter into health outcomes, current research places increasing focus on stress and its impact on health.  Home visiting can identify and assist with the social problems that may cause preventable stress, and other issues that may detract from a healthy mom and her child.  The Welcome Family program works to decrease these potential stressors by increasing parental awareness and confidence and connect new families with community support and resources.

It is the responsibility of all to ensure that new moms, and dads, are receiving the support needed to raise new, healthy Bostonians. If you are thinking of being pregnant, make sure you are taking the necessary steps for your own health to ensure your child has a healthy start.

To connect with the Healthy Baby/Healthy Child program, or to learn more about the new Welcome Family program, please call 617- 534-5832 or email HBHC@BPHC.org.