Friday, April 20, 2007

Senator Judy Eason McIntyre and Representative Anastasia Pittman Calls for Better Prenatal Care

Oklahoma has the third highest infant-mortality rate in the nation, prompting two lawmakers to call on the Legislature to find new ways to provide prenatal care and education to poor mothers.

The House today passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 23, by state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and state Rep. Anastasia Pittman, which declares April 3, 2007 as “Prenatal Care Awareness Day” in the State of Oklahoma.

Lack of prenatal care and proper pregnancy education are major factors in infant-mortality rates, said Pittman.

“We have to make a commitment to our families that their health is a priority and begin to promote initiatives and programs that will provide our expecting mothers, especially our poor mothers, access to proper care and education so their babies have a chance at a healthy life,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “Proper prenatal care is essential to preventing low-birth weight, which is one of the leading causes of death among infants.”

According to the United Health Foundation’s 2006 “America’s Health Rankings,” Oklahoma, at 68.6 percent, ranks 44th in the nation in the number of mothers who receive prenatal care while pregnant. The national average is just over 84 percent.

On average, 53 babies are born in Oklahoma every day who haven’t received either proper or any prenatal care. Those babies are three times more likely to have low-birth weights and are five times more likely to die before reaching the age of one than babies born to mothers who do get prenatal care.

The cost of providing care to low-birth-weight and premature babies is millions of dollars, said Pittman, and could be reduced by spending much less to provide education and access to quality care to mothers. Medicaid reimbursement for prenatal care is typically less than $1,000 compared with the average daily cost of $1,250 for a hospital to provide care for an infant born with a low-birth weight.

“Frankly, it is immoral for us to not provide prenatal care when we know how important it is to the health of an infant,” said Pittman, who has vast experience in developing public health policy. “Unless we begin working in conjunction with the medical community to develop and fund ways to get these women the necessary care they and their babies need, we are going to continue to spend millions of dollars each year providing care to babies for a problem that is easily preventable.

”The Coalition for Healthy Babies, a statewide organization that promotes quality of life initiatives for babies, was also on hand at the Capitol today.

Dr. Robert Mannel, chairman for the group, declared the day a success.

“We came here to get the message across to Oklahoma legislators that prenatal care is critical to the health of our tiniest citizens ─ little babies,” said Mannel. “We want the Legislature to understand that in most areas of medicine, prevention is the cure. That’s why for every dollar we spend on prenatal care we save between $1 and $3 in the baby’s first year of life and it continues throughout childhood.”

“Prenatal care is essential if a baby is to be born healthy,” added McIntyre, D-Tulsa. “That is why I am a strong advocate for legislation that will provide health care to all babies and their mothers. It doesn’t make financial sense to not provide prenatal care when we know in the long run thousands of dollars will be saved.”

Rep. Pittman Press Release 4/03/07

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