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Healthy Babies Begin Before Conception

Four-week-old Layla Jones
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Above: Four-week-old Layla Jones

America is 40th in the industrial world for infant mortality and two to three times more African American children are dying than white children, according to Tonya Lewis Lee, wife of filmmaker Spike Lee.

Lee is a spokesperson for the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency. She was in San Diego today promoting the agency's campaign, "A Healthy Baby Begins With You." She cites low birth weight, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome as reasons for low survival rates.

Lee started a preconception peer-to-peer program educating and enlisting college students to speak with high school girls.

"Many pregnancies are not planned so we talk to them about planning pregnancies, we talk to them about where are they headed in their life, what is their life plan, we talk to them about nutrition and exercise and emotional and mental health as well," Lee said.

Lee said African American women face high levels of stress because of the pressure to prove themselves, often in the face of racism. She said women are the bedrock of the home and need to take care of themselves first before they can give to others. The importance of the role of the father in the family was also stressed.

“We as women, as we make our strides, … have to let men know that in this world they aren’t just a paycheck. Yes, providing is important, but there’s more that they can do. They can protect, they can nurture, they can love,” Lee said.

Lee said older people also need to be kept in the fold by being updated on the latest advances in child care because they influence parents.

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