Sedgwick County accepts $1 million grant to continue Healthy Babies program

After a two-week delay, Sedgwick County Commission members on Wednesday voted to accept a $1 million grant to continue the county’s Healthy Babies program.

Healthy Babies provides education, support and home visits to educate people on proper prenatal health and infant care, according to Adrienne Byrne-Lutz, interim director of the Health Department.

The vote to accept the grant was unanimous.

The commission had postponed consideration for two weeks after concerns were raised by Commissioners Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn. The issue was discussed at Tuesday’s staff meeting.

Ranzau said he supports Healthy Babies but opposes a portion of the program known as Healthy Start, which he thinks is ineffective based on a University of Kansas study of 2010 data.

Healthy Babies and Healthy Start provide the same services to women; the only difference is in how they are paid for, Byrne-Lutz said.

The overall program has two funding sources, the $1,087,000 grant from federal funds administered by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that was accepted Wednesday and a separate $521,000 federal grant from the federal Healthy Start program.

The KDHE grant has to be matched by the county, which does that by providing an equivalent value in staff time, Byrne-Lutz said.

The Healthy Start grant pays for the service in targeted ZIP code areas with especially high rates of infant mortality.

Commissioners accepted that grant in January. It does not have to be matched by the county.

From 2005 to 2012, Healthy Babies participants countywide showed substantial improvement in all five key areas of measurement, Byrne-Lutz said.

First-trimester prenatal care increased 15.7 percentage points, breastfeeding was up 15.4, low birthweight dropped 2.7, very low birthweight was down 0.7, and premature birth was down 4.1.

Over the seven-year period, Healthy Babies participants averaged 2.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a state average of 6.8 and a county average of 7.7, Byrne-Lutz said.

Within the three ZIP codes targeted through Healthy Start in that period, results were more mixed, according to a report by the Health Department.

Improvements included an increase in breastfeeding and declines in premature and low-weight births.

On the downside was a slight decrease in first-trimester care and an increase in very-low-weight births.

Both those measures remained better than the county averages.

From 2005 to 2012, participation in Healthy Babies increased from 914 to 1,128, Byrne-Lutz said.

Those numbers included 281 Healthy Start participants in 2005, which rose to 325 by 2012.

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