Babies Born Healthy

We are committed to making sure more babies make it to their first birthday.

A child’s first birthday should be a joyous occasion. It’s a time for family and friends to marvel at how much the baby has grown and debate whether the baby looks more like mom or dad.

But too many infants born in Georgia do not make it to their first birthday. Of those babies who die before their first birthday, 70 percent weighed less than 5.5 pounds at birth. In cases of infant death, low-birth weight is the most common factor.

Sobering statistics

  • Every two hours in Georgia, a baby is born at a low-birth weight. In Greater Atlanta, this is one in every 11 babies.
  • Georgia’s low-birth weight rate is one of the worst in the nation and has climbed steadily since 2000, reaching 9.2 percent in Greater Atlanta.

Impacts on our community

  • Infants born at a low-birth weight are more likely to suffer from severe health problems such as cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, asthma and high blood pressure. These health problems often continue into adulthood.
  • Delivering a low-birth weight baby takes a toll on families. In addition to emotional stress, the financial burden can be devastating. Hospitalization and special care costs in the first year are 10 times higher for a low-birth weight baby than for a healthy baby. By reducing the number of low-birth weight babies by 10 percent, we can save more than $30 million in health care costs during these babies’ first year of life.

Finding solutions

United Way of Greater Atlanta is committed to making sure more babies make it to their first birthday. Our involvement began three years ago. When we started, discussions about low-birth weight and infant mortality were limited to medical professionals.

United Way worked hard to bring together state and local health agencies, private medical providers and nonprofit organizations. The Babies Born Healthy Network is leading the way in creating meaningful partnerships.

How do we get there?

A United Way investment of $3.7 million over the next three years will bring services to 500 women and reduce the number of low-birth weight babies by 10 percent.

Babies Born Healthy Community Action Plan

Within the Babies Born Healthy Community Action Plan, there are four main strategies: CenteringPregnancy, home visitation, The Doula Initiative, and public education and awareness.


CenteringPregnancy is an innovative group model of prenatal care. Instead of meeting with a doctor one-on-one for 15 minutes, women meet as a group for an hour with a health care provider. CenteringPregnancy allows women to improve their health education and gain a support system of other pregnant women.

Across the country, the model has seen results, especially with high-risk populations. This best practice was featured at a Mayo Clinic conference on innovative health care. Studies have shown that the CenteringPregnancy model has:

  • Reduced risks of early delivery by 33 percent
  • Reduced low-weight births by 28 percent

Other outcomes include:

  • Improvement in mothers’ prenatal and health knowledge
  • A decrease in trips to the emergency room during the third trimester

Home Visitation

During the program, mothers receive:

  • Screenings to identify health problems
  • Face-to-face, in-home counseling from a caring, trained case manage
  • Coaching, information and referrals to help reduce other risks such as housing instability
  • Group learning sessions that give women the opportunity to connect with other mothers

The program continues until the child is a year old, ensuring that both mother and baby get off to a good start.

Home Visitation is not just about health. The case managers help women reach their goals and deliver a healthy baby. They talk to the mother about her health, her work and her family relationships as they plan and prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Myths and Facts

MYTH: The increase in low-birth weight babies in Georgia is due to an increase in teenagers having babies.
FACT: Although a teenager is more likely to have a low-birth weight baby, the number of teen births in Georgia is decreasing. Teen births account for only 10 percent of the increase in low-birth weight babies. The majority of low-birth weight babies are born to women ages 18 to 39.

MYTH: The increase in low-birth weight babies in Georgia is due to multiple births and women who get in vitro fertilization or other fertility treatments.
FACT: Multiple-birth babies are at higher risk for having low birth weights, but multiples only account for 15 percent of all low-weight births.

MYTH: All women are equally at risk for having a low-birth weight baby.
FACT: All women are not equally at risk for having a low-birth weight baby. In fact, African-American women across all backgrounds and education levels have a higher risk of low-weight births in comparison to women of other ethnic backgrounds. Last year, 12.9 percent of pregnant African-American women in Greater Atlanta delivered low-birth weight babies, compared with 6.9 percent of Caucasian women. Environmental, biological and behavioral stressors create physical changes that increase health risks for mothers and babies, says Fleda Jackson, Ph.D., a leading researcher in infant health. Chronic stress can trigger health problems that put African-American women at high risk for low-weight births.

At-risk mothers-to-be need our help

Get involved today. With your help, we can provide the support and services our mothers-to-be need to take care of their unborn babies, take care of themselves and prepare for a healthy delivery.

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Story Highlight: Like Night and Day


Scared and lonely, Lily’s husband had left her, she couldn’t find a place to live and she was pregnant with no job.

Read her story