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San Diego Center Promotes Maternal Health And Infant Development

Almost a half-million babies are born prematurely every year in the U.S. The encouraging news is early births are declining compared to several years ago. The Center for the Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development opened in San Diego this week and is the first center in California to focus solely on improving the health of mother and baby .

Evening Edition

One-year-old Nicolas doesn't know he's being tested to check his visual, language, and receptive skills. It's all part of a statewide effort to educate women who've had some kind of exposure during pregnancy.

Dr. Christina Chambers, PhD with UC San Diego School of Medicine, helped establish the program.

"Maybe they have to take a medication, they might have asthma, they might have hypertension or a seizure disorder," she said.

Aired 5/4/12 on KPBS News.

The first center in California to focus solely on improving the health of mother and baby opened in San Diego this week.

Or maybe they drank alcohol before they discovered their pregnancy. Dr. Chambers said this new center located across the street from Rady Children's Hospital is also designed to connect San Diego schools with clinical and research information.

"The affects of alcohol take place before birth so the baby is affected, but often times the problems with learning and behavior are not really recognized until the child gets to school age," Dr. Chambers said.

That's where the Center for the Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development comes in. Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones was the first to identify fetal alcohol syndrome in babies in 1973.

"Kids with fetal alcohol syndrome are small in terms of height, weight, their head size and have very specific abnormalities of facial development," he said.

Dr. Jones said drinking alcohol before or during pregnancy is a bad idea. The center also has a health information hotline and web component to provide women answers to various concerns.

California represents about 20 percent of the births in the U.S. The hotline receives a substantial amount of calls from Hispanics who represent the fastest growing population in the country.

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