August 2, 2010

SoN-trained ‘youth mentors’ provide support for new moms

New and expecting mothers in Baltimore City have a new resource to help them make the transition to motherhood. On June 28, 13 “youth mentors” were trained in the Text4Baby program by Elizabeth “Betty” Jordan and Ellen Ray of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing as part of the B’more for Healthy Babies initiative.

Text4Baby, a free messaging service of 51-character text messages that was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers tips and advice on everything from breastfeeding to immunizations, three times a week.

“Because of the number of young women of childbearing age that we want to reach, text messages make sense to really target this audience,” says Jordan, an assistant professor and also a board member for the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.

Since Text4Baby began in January, more than 50,000 women in 41 states have registered for the educational program.

The Safe Sleep for Babies campaign, also a program of the B’more for Healthy Babies initiative, focuses on educating parents and caregivers on the dangers of infant deaths while sleeping, and how these deaths can be prevented.

“Immediately reducing the number of infants dying from preventable deaths in Baltimore is a critical goal,” said Rafael Lopez, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Family League, “but we’re trying to build community awareness of the issue and, ultimately, strengthen policies and public systems that will help educate families and protect infants for years to come.”

Youth mentors, all from the Baltimore City Public Schools, will canvass neighborhoods, hang posters, answer questions and distribute fliers about the Text4Baby and Safe Sleep programs.

The initiative, a partnership involving the Baltimore City Health Department, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and the Family League of Baltimore City, seeks to build widespread involvement in preventing infant deaths through education, community outreach and a media campaign. CareFirst has committed $3 million to support the three-year initiative.