According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), early childhood “is defined as the period from birth to eight years old, is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.” With this in mind, it is essential that babies are born healthy, and that children are healthy, safe, and nurtured. Since that definition extends to some school-age children as well, educational development is also a key to lifelong wellbeing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that regular contact with a doctor, nurse, or midwife during pregnancy allows women to receive services vital to their health and that of their future children. The WHO recommends a minimum of eight prenatal care contacts (visits) to reduce issues such as mortality during pregnancy, during birth, and immediately after birth, as well as to improve women’s experience of care.
According to data gathered from the New Mexico Department of Health (Citation: New Mexico Department of Health, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://ibis.health.state.nm.us), the percentage of women in Santa Fe County who received prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy has slowly decreased from 75% in 2013 to 66% in 2017 (the latest year available for reporting). This trend falls behind the US national averages (74% in 2013 to 77% in 2017) but remains slightly higher than statewide averages (63% in 2013 compared to 64% in 2017).
Another measure that is used to determine the relative health of a community’s babies is whether or not a baby is born at a low birth weight. According to the WHO’s definition, low birth weight babies are defined as a child whose birth weight is lower than 2500 grams, or less than 5.5 pounds. In an article entitled “Risk factors of low birth weight and effect of them on growth pattern of children up to sixth months of life: A cross-sectional study” published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456878/) researchers note that low birth weight is responsible for 70% of newborns’ mortality, especially in developing countries. Further, low birth weight is also responsible for increased risk of infections, hematological and nutritional diseases, and can result in disability.
The article continues: “There are several causing factors for [low birth weight, abbreviated as LBW]: Nutritional status and pattern of weight gaining on mother during pregnancy, history of obstetric complications […], chronic underlying diseases in mother, alcohol use and smoking. Other factors are prenatal care, hemoglobin (Hb) and hematocrit (Hct) level of mother during pregnancy, socioeconomic situation, mother's activity during pregnancy and demographic factors (age, weight,[etc.]) and so on.” Therefore, ensuring that babies start out life healthy means that is important to work towards making sure that babies are born at a healthy weight.
Likewise, Santa Fe has a greater proportion of pre-school children who are ready for Kindergarten (as assessed by the New Mexico Public Education Department’s Early Childhood Observation Tool) than their counterparts statewide. In school year 2013-14, 54.4% of Santa Fe’s preschoolers evaluated were ready for Kindergarten; in school year 2017-18, that percentage rose to 87.9%. This compares favorably to New Mexico as a whole (51% in 2013-14 to 62% in 2017-18).