Category Archives: Maternal & Child Health

DHEC And Its Partners Work To Prevent Infant Mortality

By Adrianna Bradley

The first year of life for newborn babies are exciting and scary. As proud new moms and dads fawn over their bundle of joy that joy is tempered by the loss of sleep and a fear of losing their child to some illness, accident or other condition.

Infant deaths are a great concern for our country and the world. Its impact on families and society is devastating.

DHEC monitors infant deaths

DHEC annually collects data to monitor infant death rates across South Carolina.

“Infant mortality has always been a long-standing indicator of population health across the board,” said Kimberly Seals, director of DHEC’s Bureau of Maternal Child Health. “We measure infant mortality to have a broad perspective of population health overall.”

South Carolina’s infant death rates from 2006 to 2016 have dropped 16 percent. The positive trend in reducing infant deaths is due to the work of DHEC staff, our public health partners, parents, and doctors. Some of those partners are the S.C. Hospital Association, PASOs, and the March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter.

Campaigns and programs help curb deaths

DHEC also conducts education campaigns and support programs to address prenatal and post-natal care for infants. These campaigns, programs, and initiatives are vital in keeping S.C.’s babies from becoming a death statistic.

These efforts are critical and on any given day, things can go wrong and they can go wrong quickly. New and first-time mom, Angelica Smith, is familiar with how the routine can quickly turn into an emergency.

It happened March of 2016 when a DHEC newborn home visit nurse, Ann Gordon, went to visit the new mom and baby at their Cherokee County home. Ann was talking with the family when she noticed Angelica had a strange look on her face as she held baby Jacob.

“I looked at him and noticed that his face had started turning blue,” Angelica Smith said.

“I said, Angelica, let me see the baby! He was not breathing and he had no heartbeat,” Ann Gordon said. “I told Angelica to call 911 and started doing CPR on the baby.”

Thanks to this DHEC program and Ann’s actions, little Jacob’s life was saved.

Leading causes of death

Data shows the leading causes of death for newborns are the following:

  • Birth defects
  • Preterm birth and low birth weights
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Accidents

DHEC is working with its partners to continue its progress in keeping even more of the youngest and most vulnerable alive. DHEC is determined to give every child in South Carolina the best chance possible for a happy and productive life.

View the below video for a closer look at DHEC’s efforts to address infant mortality in our state.

SIDS Awareness Month: Tips To Protect Babies

The death of even one child to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is too many. Sadly, we lose many more than that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website that about 3,700 infants died of SIDS or other sleep-related causes in the US in 2015.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, which presents a good opportunity for parents and others to learn more about SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths in an effort to reduce the risk to babies.

CDC recommends the following tips to protect your child:

  1. Place your baby on his or her back for all sleep times — for naps and at night.
  2. Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib or bassinet, covered only by a fitted sheet.
  3. Have the baby share your room, not your bed. Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
  4. Keep soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area.
  5. Do not allow smoking around your baby. Smoke in the baby’s surroundings is a major risk factor for SIDS.

Visit the CDC’s website for more details and information on SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.

Chocolate Milk and Canned Goods Now WIC-Approved!

By La’Keisha Coker, MS, RD, LD
Food Package Coordinator
Division of WIC Services

The WIC food package provides supplemental foods designed to meet the special nutritional needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk.

The new WIC food package went into effect October 1, 2017, and there are some exciting new additions in South Carolina!

Chocolate Milk:

  • One gallon of milk can be exchanged for one gallon of chocolate milk each month for women and children age 2-5
  • Gallon size only
  • Lowest cost

Canned Fruits:

  • Any variety of canned fruits, including applesauce, juice pack or water pack without added sugars, fats, oils or salt
  • Fruit must be listed as the first ingredient

Canned Vegetables:

  • Any variety of canned or frozen vegetables without added sugars, fats or oils
  • Vegetable must be listed as the first ingredient
  • May be regular or lower in sodium

The full South Carolina WIC Food Guide may be found here.

Newborn Screening Awareness Month: Our Best Foot Forward

Newborn Staff Blog Photo 1

Newborn Screening and First Sound/Hearing Screening Program Staff
(Left to right): Tanya Spells, MS, MT(ASCP) Newborn Screening Program Manager, Tara Carroll, MCD, CCC/A First Sound Program Manager, Jyotsna Achanta, First Sound Program Data Manager, Dr. Eileen Walsh, Pediatric Medical Consultant, Janice Eichelberger, First Sound Program Coordinator, Dana Smith, R.N. Newborn Screening Follow Up Program Coordinator, Jennifer Schlub, RD, LD, Nutritionist IV                  

We celebrate Newborn Screening Awareness Month each September as more than just a casual observance. Screening babies for certain serious health conditions at birth is critical.

Identifying babies with potential health conditions at birth makes it possible to begin early intervention and/or treatment before harmful effects happen. Newborn Screening includes testing for inherited disorders, hearing loss and congenital heart defects.

Newborn screening in South Carolina

In South Carolina, we screen nearly 57,000 babies each year. So far in 2017, the newborn bloodspot screening program has identified 76 infants with inherited disorders and 28 cases of Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) have been reported by SC hospitals. Annually, 75-100 infants are identified with some form of hearing loss.  

The newborn screen originally began testing for just one disorder, Phenylketonuria (PKU). The South Carolina newborn screening test panel now includes 53 different disorders, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell disease and trait, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), Congenital Hypothyroidism, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, hearing loss, (CCHD), and multiple Inborn Errors of Metabolism. For a complete list and description please visit babysfirsttest.org/newborn-screening/states/south-carolina.

You may wonder how South Carolina came to screen for these disorders. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (ACHDNC) uses an evidence-based process to evaluate specific disorders for addition to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP).  Most US newborn screening programs follow the RUSP in determining the conditions for which infants are screened.

The programs that conduct the screenings

The Newborn Hearing Program, First Sound, assesses infants to detect hearing loss and every birthing hospital in the state checks infants for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) to ensure newborns’ hearts are healthy.

The Newborn Screening Blood Spot Program (NBS) screens infants for inherited disorders via a panel of laboratory tests. A few drops of blood are collected 24-48 hours after birth by pricking an infant’s heel. Once the sample is collected, it is sent to the DHEC Public Health Laboratory, Newborn Screening section for testing. The NBS laboratory receives approximately 1,200 specimens each week.  The NBS Blood Spot Program operates six days a week, Monday-Saturday, most weeks of the year.

Newborn Staff Blog Photo 2 (3)

Public Health Newborn Screening Laboratory Director, Supervisor, and Staff

The Newborn Screening Lab has a group of laboratory technologists that performs the screening tests. Testing is initiated the day the specimen is received and most testing is completed within two days. The laboratory mails a final laboratory report for normal and abnormal test results to the individual or facility who submitted the specimen and to the physician of record. Any abnormal result is repeated for verification before follow-up staff is notified.

The Newborn Screening Program staff work closely with the pediatric medical consultant, primary healthcare providers, medical specialists and health departments around the state. Providers are notified of abnormal results by follow-up staff to ensure infants are getting the care required for the specific disorder which they screen positive. These patients are followed until a diagnosis is made by either the primary care provider or specialist to whom they are referred.

New disorders under consideration for addition to our test panel are Pompe Disease, Mucopolysaccharidosis Type 1 (MPS 1) and X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD).

For more information

Keep up with current newborn screening initiatives in our quarterly newsletter, Footnotes. For more information about newborn screening in South Carolina, contact us at newbornscreening@dhec.sc.gov.

WIC Honors National Farmers Market Week

DHEC’s Division of WIC Services joined markets across the country to celebrate National Farmers Market Week during the week of August 6-12.

As demand for local food continues to grow, so too have the opportunities for America’s farmers to market fresh food directly to the consumer.

Markets benefit farmers and customers

According to statistics recently released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), farmers markets and farm stands account for roughly $2 billion of the $3 billion that Americans spend annually on farm-direct products. This revenue, in turn, supports the livelihoods of more than 165,000 mostly small and mid-sized farms and ranches.

“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers, but in forming healthy, prosperous food systems,” says Jen Cheek, executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Farmers are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”

Providing access to fresh fruits and veggies

The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, popularly known as WIC. The WIC Program provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education at no cost to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding post-partum women, and to infants and children up to 5 years of age who are found to be at nutritional risk.

The WIC FMNP was established by Congress in 1992, to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and to expand the awareness, use of, and sales at farmers’ markets. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the program!

During summer months, select public health departments participate in the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. The SC WIC FMNP has 249 authorized farmers.  DHEC and the S.C. Department of Agriculture encourage you to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. WIC participants receive checks that may be used for fresh produce at approved local farmers markets and farm stands. Participants also learn how to choose, store, and prepare fresh produce by attending nutrition education classes.  WIC Farmers’ Market checks may be used to purchase SC-grown, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

New recipes and farmers markets

Ready to try some delicious new recipes for your farmers market fresh fruits and vegetables?

Searching for a South Carolina farmers market?  Click here.