Community Assessment Data
A Guide to Understanding the Well-Being of Children & Families in Erie County, Pennsylvania
Early, comprehensive prenatal care increases the likelihood of delivering babies of normal weight and a full gestation. Early prenatal care, beginning during the first trimester or first three months of pregnancy, can encourage good health habits during pregnancy, can lead to early detection of medical problems, and can become a gateway to parenting support, education, and assistance with nutrition, housing and other services and supports. Early prenatal care can also reduce health care costs associated with neonatal intensive care for low birth weight babies.
Tobacco use is one of the largest preventable causes of adverse outcomes for infants. Smoking increases the likelihood of low weight births, health problems for both mother and child during pregnancy and poor infant health. The reduction of tobacco use during pregnancy can reduce poor outcomes for infants and greatly reduce the costs of medical care for both mother and child.
A low birth weight infant is defined one that weights less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 9 ounces) at birth. These infants are at higher risk long-term illness, disability, or death than are infants of normal birth weight. These problems can include developmental delays, visual and hearing defects, chronic respiratory ailments, and learning difficulties that interfere with normal development and progress in school.
The most fragile of these babies are those born at very low birth weight, which is defined as below 1,500 grams (3 pounds, 8 ounces).
It should be noted that medical advances have helped some high-risk pregnancies to continue (when there are medical complications, multiple babies, etc.). Without these advances, some of the low birth weight babies may not have survived to birth.
The increase in births to unmarried women, especially unmarried teenagers, is among the many changes in American society that has affected family structure and the economic security of children. The impacts of increasing birth rates among unmarried teenagers are devastating to a community. Higher rates of poverty, poor academic achievement, reduced earning power, increased reliance on government supports such as welfare and medical assistance, and poorer overall health are just a few of the numerous negative outcomes for young parents and their children.
Infant mortality, deaths to children under one year of age, is a readily available and widely used indicator of a county’s general child health status. Since the first year of life is more precarious than later years of childhood, negative social conditions (such as poverty or an unhealthy environment) have a large impact on this vulnerable group. Communities where there is a confluence of several problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy, tend to have higher infant mortality rates.
Once children survive the first year of life, mortality drops sharply; however, untimely deaths do occur to children in our community. Reducing preventable child deaths caused by illnesses and both motor vehicle and non-motor vehicle accidents is an easy way to protect our children.
Children can be determined to be disabled due to physical or mental problems. These problems preclude them from fully experiencing what non-disabled children experience during childhood such as normal play and school experiences. When children are determined to be disabled and are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Social Security Agency, they are eligible to receive medical assistance (MA) through the local Public Assistance Office.