March of Dimes Reaches out to American Indian and Alaska Native Families
Pregnancy Education Booklet Makes ImpactOklahoma City, OK, April 27, 2012
A new March of Dimes initiative called The Coming of the Blessing® is addressing high rates of infant death and premature birth among American Indian and Alaska Native babies. A committee of primarily American Indian women representing ten different tribes studied existing materials and programs for pregnant women. They identified a gap in health education resources that address the cultural and spiritual beliefs shared by many native communities. The women believed that by emphasizing the strong family and community bonds; the deep and profound respect for nature, life, ancestors, women and children; they could help babies have a fighting chance.
The women worked for more than a year to create The Coming of the Blessing®. This comprehensive booklet has been tested in 14 states for its ability to encourage American Indian and Alaska Native women to include their traditional beliefs, their ancestors and their partners in their circle of support during pregnancy. This circle of support can help them make healthy choices for themselves and their babies. More than 7,000 booklets have been distributed to targeted Native American communities.
According to a survey of women who received The Coming of the Blessing® booklet during pregnancy, 90% said the booklet helped them change a behavior to be healthier during pregnancy. Mothers made specific changes related to nutrition, stress reduction and the decision to breastfeed. Although American Indian/Alaska Native mothers have the highest rate of inadequate prenatal care (23.8%) of all racial/ethnic groups, 88% of the moms who received this health education tool kept all of their prenatal appointments. The preterm birth rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives is 14.6%, but for women participating in The Coming of the Blessing®, that rate was 7%.
The Coming of the Blessing® initiative has grown from the booklet to include prenatal education sessions, a poster with positive prenatal messages, a website and a photography exhibit. The initiative has received praise and recognition from several national organizations. On April 13, 2012 the Oklahoma Chapter March of Dimes held a train-the-trainer workshop for representatives from the Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations. “The Coming of the Blessing® is a wonderful prenatal education program that includes the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Native women it serves.” said Belinda Rogers State Program Director, Oklahoma Chapter March of Dimes. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide this training to help improve the health of Native American mothers and babies in Oklahoma.”
To learn more about The Coming of the Blessing®, visit the new website at comingoftheblessing.com. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.