The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) undertakes a prevention/awareness program each month related to the health and well-being of children and teens. This month is National Birth Defects Prevention Month which focuses on strategies for healthy pregnancies and newborn care. This year’s theme by the Houston, Texas based National Birth Defects Prevention Network is, “Best for You. Best for Baby.”
Unfortunately, a difficult form of child abuse can happen during pregnancy when pregnant mothers don’t uphold appropriate standards for the health of their unborn baby. For example, if a mother-to-be indulges in alcohol, drugs and smoking, they can endanger their unborn child who may be born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and many other birth defects. FASD is 100% preventable by abstaining from alcohol during pregnancy.
The toll is significant. In the U.S., one baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes, and each year, the total hospital costs of children with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. About 20% of annual infant deaths are caused by birth defects, as well as 6 to 15% of deaths in children up to the age of 14.
Jasie Landeros heads up the prevention department as ECCAC’s Outreach Program Manager. She commented, “We are trying to educate pregnant mothers to the importance of taking care of themselves during pregnancy and being under a doctor’s care. If there are any mothers-to-be out there who need help to stop their drug and alcohol habits, I encourage them to connect with me so we can help them in finding a support group and resources for both their benefit, and their baby.”
With centers in Niceville and DeFuniak Springs, ECCAC has provided over 150,000 services at no cost to more than 15,000 children experiencing abuse, abandonment or neglect to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews and medicals.
For further information, visit www.eccac.org, or email or call Jasie Landeros at Jasie@eccac.org, 850-833-9237, Ext. 267. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.