(L-R) Micah Stampley, Gospel Billboard chart-topper and Stellar Award Talent Search Winner; Heidi Stampley, songwriter and registered nurse; Harold P. Freeman, M.D., Associate Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Director of the NCI Center to Reduce Health Disparities; Nicole C. Mullen, two-time Dove Award winner for Female Artist of the Year and two-time Grammy nominee; Cristina Beato, M.D., HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Health; and Garth Graham, M.D., HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health. For campaign information and partnership opportunities, please call 1-800-444-6472 or visit www.healthgap.omhrc.gov

HHS SECRETARY LEAVITT LAUNCHES NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO REDUCE AFRICAN AMERICAN INFANT MORTALITY

Washington, DC (BlackNews.com) - HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced the launch of Know What to Do for Life, a public education campaign to increase awareness about the risk factors associated with infant mortality in the African American community.

"We have made significant strides in reducing infant mortality over the past few decades, but more can be done," Secretary Leavitt said. "Know What to Do for Life will bring awareness to mothers and caretakers, providing them with important information for healthy babies."

African American infants are nearly two -and one-half times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. Many of the conditions and factors that increase the risk of infant mortality disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority babies. Preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks gestation) is the leading cause of death and developmental disability for African American infants. African American infant deaths due to low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and premature birth are nearly four times that for white infants.

As part of the Know What to Do for Life campaign, HHS is releasing new radio and print public service advertisements (PSAs) featuring Gospel recording artists Nicole Mullen, and Micah and Heidi Stampley. The PSAs encourage audiences to learn more about SIDS and the risk factors for low birth weight and premature delivery. Another key component of the campaign is a toolkit for community and faith-based organizations that will be distributed during the summer of 2005.

The campaign uses simple preventive messages aimed at fathers and caretakers as well as expectant mothers. They include:

* Pregnant women should begin seeing a health provider as soon as they think they are pregnant, and should go to all of their prenatal care appointments;

* Parents should place babies on their backs to sleep, should not put babies to sleep with more than one layer of clothing, and should not put stuffed toys in the crib;

* Expectant mothers should not drink, smoke or use other drugs before or during pregnancy and after giving birth; and

* Expectant mothers should learn about factors that affect birth outcomes, such as proper nutrition, and should seek help for chronic illnesses and other medical problems.

"Reducing infant mortality in the African American community is a priority for the Office of Minority Health," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H. "The HHS Office of Minority Health is committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder with community and faith-based groups, the business community, and the media to get the word out that everyone can play a part in keeping our children healthy."

The Know What to Do for Life campaign is part of the HHS Closing the Health Gap on Infant Mortality Initiative. The department's three-part approach to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant deaths includes research coordination among HHS agencies, risk reduction efforts in communities, and communications activities to improve awareness of factors that contribute to infant mortality.

Nicole Mullen won two Dove awards - one for the Gospel Music Association's Female Artist of the Year. Earlier in 2005, she received a Grammy nomination for her most recent album, Everyday People. Micah Stampley recently topped the Billboard Gospel charts with his first release, The Songbook of Micah. His wife, Heidi, cowrote his hit debut and is a registered labor-and delivery nurse.

HHS has set up a toll-free number and Web site for people interested in campaign information, materials and partnership opportunities. The number is 1-800-444-6472 and the Web site is www.healthgap.omhrc.gov


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