Tuesday, February 20, 2001

19% of babies subjected to smoke

Ohio works with moms on problem

By Kate Roberts
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Nineteen percent of Ohio women smoked while pregnant in 1998, well above the national average of 13 percent for what can be a key factor in low-birth weight babies, a report being released today says.

        The report, “The Right Start” was produced by the research firm Child Trends and Kids Count, a project that produces an annual survey of child well-being.

        The survey looked at eight indicators of child welfare: teen births, births to teens who already have children, births to unmarried women, mothers' education levels, prenatal care, smoking during pregnancy, low-birth weight births and preterm births.

        Ohio closely followed the national trend. The state finished slightly ahead of the curve in the number of mothers who finished high school — 82 percent versus 78 percent nationally.

        The report also compared Columbus and Cleveland to the averages for 50 large U.S. cities.

        Cleveland's results were poorer than the 50-city average on all indicators. Nearly 66 percent of city women who had babies in 1998 were single, compared with an average of 43 percent. And 21 percent of the total births were to teens, compared with the average of 15 percent.

        Columbus' indicators matched the 50-city trends in most area, except fewer women received prenatal care than the national urban average and Columbus had a much higher smoking rate among pregnant women — 19 percent compared with an average of 11 percent.

        The Ohio Department of Health is working with health-care providers to get pregnant women who smoke to quit, said Karen Hughes, chief of the department's Bureau of Child and Family Health Services. The program is based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that said a 5- to 15-minute intervention by a health worker can cut smoking rates among pregnant women by 30 percent to 70 percent.


        Low-birth weight babies suffer from a variety of problems that can result in longer and more expensive hospital stays.

        Mark Real, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said providing health insurance to pregnant women has been shown to reduce most of the risk factors measured in the study.

        “Many women who don't have insurance don't feel comfortable going to get prenatal care,” he said. “They scrimp on that in order to have money to cover the hospital and things they see as associated with the actual birth.”

        Problems such as gestational diabetes are easily diagnosed during a doctor's visit but can lead to stillbirths if undetected, he said.

        In Ohio, about 4 percent of mothers received late prenatal care or none at all. That number is higher in the cities — about 10 percent in Cleveland and 12 percent in Columbus.

        “That's one thing that Ohio's doing right,” he said. “Over the course of the '90s, they've included more working mothers in insurance programs so mothers making ... around $22,000 a year can get coverage.”


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