Perinatal and Infant Health

Short- and long-term health risks continue to exist for mothers and their babies before, during, and after birth. Through our range of efforts, we promote and provide essential programs, and services to increase access to quality care and ultimately reduce illness and death.

Nearly 3/4 of adolescents (age 12-17) have had a well-visit check-up in the past year.

What Goals Are We Trying to Accomplish?

Ensure that higher risk mothers and newborns deliver at hospitals that are able to provide proper care.

  • Very Low Birth Weight (VLBW) infants are the most fragile newborns, but when born in a facility with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) their chances to survive and thrive improve greatly.

Increase the number of infants who are breastfed and those who are exclusively breastfed through six months.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all infants exclusively breastfeed for about six months as human milk supports optimal growth and development. Mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding may lessen the likelihood of developing certain cancers and other health risks.

Increase the number of infants placed to sleep on their backs.

  • The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends use of the back-sleep position, on a separate firm sleep surface and without loose bedding.

Increase the number of children who receive a developmental screening.

  • Early identification of developmental disorders is critical to the well-being of children and their families.

Increase the number of children who are adequately insured.

  • Inadequately insured children are more likely to lack appropriate and timely care, be without a medical home, and be less likely to receive needed referrals and receive family-centered care.

Which Programs and Initiatives Help Us Accomplish Our Goals?

Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant: Our largest funding method—delivered to grantees in 59 states and jurisdictions—provides:

  • access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care for women, especially for low-income and high-risk pregnant women
  • an increase in health assessments and follow-up diagnostic and treatment services, and
  • toll-free hotlines and assistance in applying for services to pregnant women with infants and children who are eligible for Title XIX (Medicaid).

Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health (AIM) exit disclaimer icon: A national partnership of organizations positioned to reduce severe maternal illness and death.

Healthy Start: Uses proven strategies to reduce preterm birth, low birthweight, birth defects, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), maternal complications, and unintentional injuries. The program also works to address social and economic factors that have been shown to have a negative impact on child health and development.

  • A key resource for Healthy Start grantees, the Healthy Start EPIC Center exit disclaimer icon, provides training, consultation, and technical resources to community-based agencies working to give every child a healthy start. Healthy Start grantees can request technical assistance and receive help achieving their program goal

Bright Futures exit disclaimer iconThrough a collaborative of federal and state partners, the initiative develops curricula, training, guidance, and research; and produces Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents exit disclaimer icon, recommendations for the top 10 areas of child development. Along with presenting the most up-to-date information on preventive screenings and services by visit, Bright Futures provides visit-by-visit guidance for health care providers.

Home Visiting: In partnership with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), states, territories, and tribal entities develop and implement voluntary, evidence-based, and locally-managed programs that support pregnant women and families. Advice, guidance, and resources help at-risk parents of children from birth to kindergarten entry tap into the resources and hone the skills they need to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready-to-learn.

Safe Infant Sleep Systems Integration (SISSI): Sleep-related infant deaths are the leading cause of infant death after the first month of life and the third leading cause of infant death overall. Through effective programs and policies, caregivers are encouraged to follow safe infant sleep behaviors.

  • As part of SISSI, the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep exit disclaimer icon develops and implements the National Action Plan to Increase Safe Infant Sleep with partners to support breastfeeding among infant caregivers by activating systems, supports, and services to work together to make safe infant sleep a national standard.

Collaborative Improvement & Innovation Network (CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality: With participants representing every state and region throughout the US, this public-private partnership shares best practices and lessons learned, and tracks progress toward shared benchmarks—all in an effort to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes.

Heritable Disorders: Work is being done to reduce illness and death in newborns and children who have or are at risk for heritable disorders, such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis and hearing impairment.

Newborn Screening: Projects include developing a needs assessment for state newborn screening programs, genetics programs, and service systems, merging newborn screening and genetic services into existing state systems of care, evaluating new technologies for diagnosis and in screening programs, and the development of uniform guidelines. Read the Report to Congress: Newborn Screening Activities for more information (PDF - 262 KB). 

Universal Newborn Hearing Screening: For infants who did not pass their initial hearing test, specifically targeted interventions are put in place to increase the number of these infants who receive timely and appropriate follow-up screenings and/or are referred to a specialist for further examination.

Date Last Reviewed:  July 2016